Sunday, February 5, 2012

How to Have a Life and Share It

Like marriage, I've written about teaching before (I'll wait a minute while you catch up so the title makes sense). Like marriage, teaching is a complicated, beautiful beast that demands pieces of you that you might not originally know you have. Teaching, like anything worth doing well, asks you rethink your expectations every minute - not to let go of them, no, but to redefine them.

It's tough to bring something new to how I feel about teaching since that last post because when I return to reread it I am immediately met with a simultaneous longing for the classroom and a gratefulness that I was lucky enough to have the experiences with those students that I did.

Now, nearing two years since I've been in the classroom, I think I can tell you what I learned from that time that extends well past the papers and the grades. Teaching taught me to be a better listener, and required that I hear what the people in my presence weren't saying. Teaching taught me everyone needs someone in their life that refuses to give up on them, and because it's impossible to know who has that and who doesn't, I might as well be that person to them (a little extra reinforcement never hurt anyone). Teaching taught me that just because something works once, doesn't mean it will ever work again, and being flexible and inventive are the difference between stubborn failure and positive change. Teaching taught me, even when I didn't want to learn, to accept people on their terms and not my own. I'd like to tell you now that I learned all of these lessons and now execute them flawlessly, but it's not that simple. The best thing teaching taught me? Patience.

I still receive updates from a number of my former students as they declare majors, move apartments, take exciting trips, and just generally become adults. I've given feedback on papers for other classes, opened emails filled with excited exclamations for high grades, and listened as Andrew describes which former student of mine recognized him at work and said hello.

I miss teaching, yes, but I don't think I actually ever gave it up. I'm not currently in the classroom, but the classroom is most definitely in me.

1 comment:

  1. Those of us in the teaching game often say things like "s/he is one of those students that reminds me why I teach." Well, you, my dear, are one of those teachers that reminds us all why we teach and just how lucky we are. I will forever be inspired by your passion for teaching and for your students.