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 itFr. 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.