I teach High School Arts and Humanities in LaRue County Kentucky and I believe these things to be true.
Students watch us- they pay attention to how we react to disruptive students; they watch us when we praise. They remember how we react under pressure; they remember when we laugh. They pay attention when we dress well and when we dress down. They know when a lesson is working and when it falls apart. And if it falls apart and if we’re honest about it- they usually forgive us. I believe in building self-esteem, courage, kindness, empathy and forgiveness. I believe that without these basic qualities- learning simply cannot occur.
What teacher hasn’t experienced the perfect storm- that which occurs when both teacher and student have had a bad night, bad day or a bad class- and both carry into the frey- frustration and disappointment- anger or fear. The smallest of infractions occurs and what should have been a simple- ‘get rid of your gum’ turns into a rant about everything that is wrong with the world. Feelings get hurt- credibility is lost- we are all guilty of this ugly perfect storm. This can make or break the delicate balance that as educators we crave. It’s difficult to stop and remember who we are and what we do- but if we’re good- we do, remember.
I do not believe in ‘free days’. I believe that an unengaged student is a student on the brink of a discipline problem and by extension- a student lost.
I believe in a campus of full of vibrant teachers- those who laugh and enjoy their camaraderie in front of their students. If we don’t want to be in our classrooms, if our conversations constantly shift to the next break or vacation, why should we expect our students to feel any differently?
I believe that every student can be made better by studying the arts. The arts define us as a people; it connects us. We have a universal impulse to form- to create. In studying the arts – we learn what it is to be human. We learn how societies react to adversity and how a painting, a play or a piece of music can speak for a generation. It teaches us that we are not alone in our fears and in our frustrations.
I believe that teaching is one of the last of the noble professions. And this fall as I stood in the parking lot of my son’s new dormitory, crying and smiling at his departure- he suggested that perhaps teaching was the way to go. When I pushed him for a reason, he replied, ‘I have lots of friends with parents of many occupations. You’re the only person I know who is glad to see the day begin and sad to hear the last bell ring- maybe there’s something to that”.
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