I have now been teaching professionally for over 10 years. Through it all, I can say that one thing has remained constant.

I am surprised by students

There has not been a day that I have not learned from, been humbled by, been proud of, cried with, and had my heart broken by and for my students.

Before this wonderful experiment of teaching, I assumed that teaching involved being a subject matter expert who imparted their wisdom to the students. I fully embraced the banking system model of teaching. I was depositing information into the empty vessels that were students.

It almost appears laughable now but I never fully realized that it was a little more complex than that.

Students never come to class as empty vessels. No these students come full:

  • Full of pain
  • Full of joy
  • Full of fear
  • Full of wisdom
  • Full of empathy
  • Full of stories

Throughout the years I have learned that it is not about so much about the subject matter. I am there to help them learn but how do we come alongside and help the students who:

  • Just found out their mother had stage 4 cancer two days before class began.
  • have been living in a van because they are going through a divorce.
  • Are devastated when they hear their classmates joke about sexual orientation when they themselves are struggling with how to identify themselves.
  • Live in an abusive family situation and school is the only respite from the yelling and physical abuse.

I don’t have the answers.

All I can do is listen, to offer support, to let them know they are heard.

This morning I was reading through my email and I came across this quote from a Catholic priest:

Almost all people are carrying a great and secret hurt, even when they don’t know it

Fr. Richard Rohr

How does this not apply to my teaching practice? How can I not acknowledge the pain they may carry?

Throughout the years I have discovered that it was not I that was filling them up, but rather it was the other way around.

I am blessed to be filled by them.

They bring me their stories, insights, humour, pain, and lives and all I have to offer is the very same thing.

They continually challenge me to be a better version of myself.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, with all that my students bring to the classroom; I am humbled, honoured, challenged and most importantly:

I am surprised by students.

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