I definitely WANT to keep up my teaching blog but I kind of don't have time to do both. I mean, yeah, I probably do - but I've neglected this one. And this is my blog blog. Dang, I've been doing it for something like 8 years. Crazy! And it was Xanga before that, ha.
Today is the last class of the semester, and most things are pretty much wrapped up. I don't have summer classes lined up. I like to work, and love to teach, but this is all good - I need to get some writing done. Especially if I get into that PhD program. But I will miss my students. And being at school. I was finishing up some conferencing yesterday and one of my older students mentioned "taking down the construction-paper bulletin boards, boxing up the textbooks..." and I just put my head on the desk and said "I MISS that", because I was full-on decimated by that glorious memory from grade school. Then, it was exciting that school was done for the year, yes; what I more enjoyed, though, was how the school was filled with a sense of anticipation and novelty. It was like the feeling from the days we had classroom parties because of whatever holiday. And doing those end-of-the-year things were almost liturgical, but in a festive sort of way. It spoke to me just as much of what was to come as to what had been done. None of it felt over. And in the present, with my head on the desk, I was smiling, because it's just so abundantly clear to me that I have always loved school. Always. Even the rough parts - like math class, when my teacher didn't teach me, so therefore I thought I couldn't do it. There's always renewal, because there's someone else around the corner who might help, who might hand me something new.
I'm definitely (profoundly) interested in educational reform - because I want things to be as good as they can be, not because I think things are irrevocably broken. Times change, and the adaptations aren't always adequate or beneficial. Mostly, I'm interested in teacher-training, so that both teachers and students benefit the most from the educational experience, and no one feels confused or unsupported in a process that should be safe, instead of fraught with fear and worry. Which, I hope, would include better compensation for all educators. So it bothers me, the times when I hear from students that they haven't been supported by teachers. Granted, I know to take these stories with a grain of salt, because human nature, and because it's irrational to jump to polarizing conclusions based on secondhand information. And I also know that there are a great deal of excellent teachers out there. But I also know that some of the stories are true - if at the very least, because what students tell me is their actual experience, which I can't dismiss.
One of my students told me recently that he had reached out for help, and a teacher told him it was not his problem. This broke my heart. I mean, it really did. And made me angry. A student's problems are always, at least to some degree, an instructor's problems. Teaching is not a business. And I firmly embrace my background and practice of humanism and the faith teachings of my particular faith tradition: when somebody asks for help, you help them. You help them. A teacher might let a student fall, but a teacher should be there to help the student up. I'm not a parent, but I feel it's similar. You don't tell your toddler, splayed on the floor after trying to walk, reaching for you, that it's not your problem.
Anyways. This student also told me he'd pray for me, and he is Muslim, and this made me cry. In a good way. I'm going to be political right now, by the way: I'm thinking about some of the national attitudes towards others. The other. And all I can think about is the Good Samaritan, and who he helped. A good Samaritan is not a basic, random do-gooder, like the phrase sometimes now suggests. A good Samaritan is a person who goes beyond what is comfortable, socially, economically, and politically, to care for someone in need. Which I think is key. Also, what is key, is not knowing who you help when you help them - we want our help to be qualified, as if there has to be a demonstrated need, that is in keeping with our values, before we help. That's not how helping works. We don't know what all a person is experiencing. They might never tell us. But we can assume their pain is as deep as ours, their burdens just as oppressive. There are no comparisons in helping, no competitions. No person is an island, except every person is an island if they feel that no one cares.
I've seen that helping has long-lasting effects, and I've also had so many experiences, the effects of which I will never know. But that is benefit enough - the possibility of there being anything better, even if just an instance or a moment, because I said, in my heart, "it is my problem".
So anyways. I will miss my students this summer, but I will not forget them, and I hope they've wrapped up the semester feeling good about themselves.
And I'm looking forward to the fall. Even though it won't precisely include buying fresh new school supplies (scratch-n-sniff pencils, mint-scented paste, flexible packages of wide-ruled notebook paper...) or fresh new school clothes (pink Nikes and bubble skirts and slouch socks...). Though, to do an obvious call back, I might just have to bust out some construction paper, and at the very least carry it around and sniff it, like some sort of junkie - because I am. IN A GOOD WAY.
I freaking love school.