Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- The Power of the Student

Much have I learned from my teachers,
more from my colleagues, but most from my students.

Most teachers will give their students the credit for making their job as joyful as it is for them. Don't get me wrong, EVERY teacher will tell you he/she has the days where his/her students drive them nuts (i.e. does the day before a holiday, the day after a holiday, or the day after TAKS ring a bell!? HA!) I'm told there are the days where you question your sanity in taking on SOOO many kids when you might have two or three of your own waiting to be fed at home. But still, it is those moments of joy that they bring to you, whether it's on a daily occurence or every-other-day, which pays off!

Sure, the students might be the younger and less experienced in the teacher-student relationship, but it's hard to find a teacher who doesn't claim that they learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them. This doesn't matter the age of the students, as we all have something we can learn from one another. If you disagree, consider the best selling book "All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. See, if a child as young as 5 or 6 can teach us some of lifes biggest lessons, I've no doubt the lessons available to observe and learn only continues as the students grow up.

A few months back I made the mistake of telling one of my best friends (who happens to be a teacher) that since I was attending graduate school and she was now pursuing her career in educating others, that I was the one still in the "learning" role, while she was in the "teaching" role. She was QUICK to correct me and let me know that she is learning more now AS a teacher than she ever did in the classroom listening to the teachers. And you know, as I thought about it, there is only so much a text or a person can tell you, it's the experience that keeps "learning" going. And with a group of students before you each day, the experiences only keep coming!

Sure, students are HILARIOUS! And many times it's their humor which can teach us a lesson! The importance of not taking a situation too seriously is a child-like response in life. But yet another, and maybe one of the most important lessons a student can provide is the lesson of looking at a situation through a different lense. Children and adolescents often times see things totally different than adults. Sure, maybe it is a sense of immaturity, which is why it's important to have an adult to help children make appropriate decisions, but at the same time, kids have the ability to not take a situation for face-value. They are willing to question what adults sometimes are not. It is these opportunities that students provide teachers with that can make the light-bulb moment for the teacher, rather than the student.

Students have more power and influence in a classroom than others might give them credit. The impact they can have on their teachers is AMAZING! Often times I hear about teachers motivated to be better people, or better teachers because of a situation concerning a student. Sure, teachers have an unbelievable level of influence on students' lives, but the impact goes both ways...

I've been blessed to hear many teacher stories. I've heard about teachers becoming heart-broken due to student situations. When a student's words or thoughts of being unhappy with his/her teacher get back to that teacher, it can leave the teacher discouraged. A student's feelings toward a teacher do impact that teacher's feelings. A teacher doesn't want to hear that he/she is not liked by one of his/her students. Maybe that student is a difficult student, but teachers care about being accepted by people (i.e. students) just as much as the rest of us care about being accepted by others.

But the influence on the teacher's emotions isn't always negative. One of my favorite stories that was shared with me came over a phone call. I had answered my phone from one of my friends who teaches and I could tell she'd been crying. She proceeded to explain that she felt she was being a baby for crying about the situation, but she couldn't help herself. She went on to tell me how she had attended a swim meet for one of her students because the student had asked her if she'd come. My friend almost didn't go because she had other things she needed to take care of, but she decided to go and make a quick appearance--and boy was she glad she did.

The student ended up swimming her best race ever! She immediately came up to my friend after the race and asked if she saw it (to which my friend said of course and congratulated her). As the student went back over to the team, the student's parent and coach came up to my friend and proclaimed that that was the best she had EVER swam and they expressed their greatest appreciation for my friend (the teacher) to take the time to show up, because they knew it meant so much to the student!

My friend was elated that her presence meant so much to the young student! It was a friend's experience of feeling over-joyed that reminded me again of how a student can have so much power over his/her teachers!

[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

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