Friday, December 9, 2011

Vending Machine

"We're interested in showing the students that teachers are human beings," she told me. And I nearly clobbered her in hugs.

This is what my two female reporters (one of them my student) said upon interviewing me this morning for the school newspaper. They are writing a piece showing four different teachers, at four different stages of their professional/personal lives. I am the rookie: the student-teacher. They also interviewed a relatively new teacher, five-yearer, ten-yearer and such.

They asked me questions about the adjustment between being a college student and being a "teacher." They asked about juggling my college load and my high school load. They asked about why I wanted to become a teacher and how the experience has been on a scale of 1-to-10. They asked about what I do outside of school and my classroom pet peeves.

One of my biggest pet peeves this semester has been the students who treat me like a vending machine. One that--with a begrudging nickel of their effort--dishes out homework assignments, grades, and discipline. They see me as a teacher and nothing else. I am only worth what I can produce, what grades I give them, and how much I let them get away with in class. These are the students that are hardest for me to interact with because it feels like they've put me on another level that they might've assumed I wanted to be on. I am teacher. They are student. It turns into a battle instead of a relationship.

The curiosity of my interviewers about what makes me human, reminded me of the same respect that I've received from several students this semester.

The ones who are conscious of my identity as a person (not only a teacher). I treasure them.

Students who recognize that I am just a college student, a few years older than they are, doing my best to finish school and do so with some sanity.

Those who risk breaking the code of student/teacher conduct in the hallway by actually making eye contact, smiling, or waving.

Those who ask, "How are you doing?"

Those who don't whine and complain about the expectations in class because they recognize that I am not actually trying to pick on them, we're merely fulfilling the expectations of the curriculum. It's not personal, it's class.

Those who smile.

Those who take part in discussion as if they're interested. As if they care. As if what I have to say matters. At all.

I don't expect every student to love every minute of our time together in class. Truthfully, in high school, I wasn't always great at seeing my teachers as whole-people either, at granting them the respect they deserved as human beings. So I don't get horribly frustrated when they do the same to me. However, I greatly appreciate those who do not and I will most definitely remember them when I leave.

In five school-days.