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Students, Take Note: Teachers are People, Too!

Meghan Mathis

5 Things I'd Love My Students to Know About Me

Teaching high-schoolers, I am frequently reminded of my own high-school experiences.  I remember the teachers I liked, the ones I did not like, and what I thought about teachers at the time.  It’s amusing to me to realize how little I thought about my teachers, who they were, and what they might be thinking about their students, myself included.  Now that I’m the one standing in front of the class instead of sitting in it, I imagine that there are things my teachers would have probably liked me to know that I didn’t understand at the time.  I wonder if any of the five things I’d love my students to know now are things my teachers wish I had known then.

 

I love two-hour delays…

I tell my students this frequently but I don’t think they really believe me.  I love 2-hour delays and 3-day weekends as much as they do.  In fact, I probably love them a little bit more.  I’d like my students to know that because I want them to know that teachers have lives outside of school that are important to us too.  We understand and empathize with their desire to go and do the things they want to do rather than what they have to do – because we feel the same way.  It’s an important lesson to learn – sometimes we have to fulfill our obligations (work, school, etc.) before we can enjoy our free time.  I’m lucky in that I enjoy my work, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t smile at the thought of getting to spend a few extra hours with my family before heading into school.

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I know your world doesn’t revolve around my class…

I care deeply about my subject and what I teach my students.  I think that what I teach has value and that learning it will improve their lives.  But I know that my class is not the most important thing in my students’ lives – and I want them to know that I respect that.  In fact, my understanding of that is one of the main reasons why I work so hard at making lessons that are worthwhile, entertaining, and engaging.  I want my students to know that I respect their lives, that some days they may have things going on that make it difficult to give me their full attention, and that I’ll try to work with them on those days.  In return, I ask them to try to put the normal day-to-day stuff aside and focus on my class when they’re there.

Sometimes my lessons bomb, but I’m always trying...

Every teacher has had lessons that just tanked.  It’s painful.  You spend all this time preparing something that you’re sure is going to spark student interest and then you find yourself staring out at 25 pairs of bored, apathetic eyes (ok…truth be told, only 18 pairs of eyes…the rest are closed because the students are sleeping, or they’re staring at the clock, or texting, or well…you’ve been there).  I’d love for my students to know how hard I work trying to make my lessons worthwhile and appealing.  Sometimes they bomb, but you can’t get it right all the time.

That thing you do…when you pretend that you don’t care about anything…makes me CRAZY!

One of the things I ask my students at the beginning of the year is that they make a promise to try in my classroom before they give up.  I ask them not to roll their eyes when I say we’re going to read poetry, not to throw in the towel the first time they read Shakespeare, not to curse under their breath when I say we’re going to peer edit the papers we just wrote.  I ask these things because it frustrates me to no end when a student who could do great work, who could do better than they are, who could understand the difficult concept they’re struggling with with just a little more effort…just gives up. 

I worry about you/think about you/care about you way more than you realize…

If my students knew just how much time I spent worrying about them, trying to think of better ways to help them, hoping that they will make good choices and stressing over how to best nudge them in the right direction…well, they’d probably think I was stalking them a bit.  But seriously, I would love for my students to know just how many adults in their lives care and worry about them every day and how much potential we know they have to do amazing things.

There’s more, of course.  More things I would like for my students to understand.  But overall, they all fall into similar categories:  I understand their need to have a life that they love, I am trying so hard each day to make their education worthwhile, my expectations for them are high because I know they are important and capable of great things.  I’d tell them all of this…but they’d just yawn and roll their eyes.