My life as a student heavily informs how I operate as a teacher. There was a time in my life when I was a complete failure because I refused to follow simple instructions. It was not so much that I was rebellious or wayward but like all teenagers, I had figured a way out and I was sticking to MY plan. Would it work?
I did not struggle academically. My grades during high school depicted more or less an average student. I was able to make progress in all subjects with particular interests in biology, geography and history. Teachers knew of my capacity and that was often reflected in comments on my reports. One comment from my year 11 math teacher has not left me, “You have potential but you’re wasting it.”
Like many a young men I had been bitten by the football bug when I came to this urban high school. As I grew older, my love for the sport consumed every logical sensibility I possessed. My dream of becoming a professional football was very short-lived. I opted not to sit history which left me with one less subject. In my reluctance to make adequate preparations I failed all but four subjects in the external exams.
The only reason I got four and not three was because one teacher literally held me by the hand and helped me complete a course work. That morning she came looking for me and took me up to the classroom then sat next to me for the completion of the work.
Very few persons know that I repeated years 10 and 11 at another school. Again, another teacher was willing to give me a chance. At Jose Marti I met teachers who were passionate about teaching. They exuded excitement and desire. The classroom was a buzz at all times. At this point I was a transformed student who was laser focused on making progress. The support academically and otherwise was phenomenal. The principal spoke glowingly of me every time regardless of the audience. He had high hopes for my future, far greater dreams than I had of myself.
All of these experiences have forged to make me the type of teacher I am today. All students need grace and compassion. If as a teacher you lack these traits, you will not succeed. What will become evident, is that you are constantly miserable and can find no satisfaction in your day job.
See the beauty in the rubble. Teenagers are what I call marble slabs. It does not yet appear what they will become but the possibilities are endless. With patience and perseverance you can watch that careless, ill-mannered student become a mature individual. Kids need time and love. They need this daily and loads of it. Some of us don’t give it because we never received it as a child and that’s sad.
Students are living, breathing human beings and not just data points on a spreadsheet. They, like us, are struggling with becoming. They won’t stay the same forever. As the quote goes: “I am no longer what I used to be but not yet what I am becoming.” Give them time.