Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gratitude

I am sure almost all of us have a teacher who made an impression on them in a positive way.  When my friend was here last week we talked about the teachers who influenced us and who we  remembered.  We even, at our great age, remembered some of the specific classes or lessons....that is pretty powerful to be so clearly recalled 24 plus years later.  We both feel very grateful for the teachers we had at school.

Now that I am a part-time teacher (I teach college students in Early Childhood Education) I find  myself challenged to be a positive influence on my students.  I am not going to pretend I don't rip open the evaluation envelope and read each evaluation at the end of the course.  I feel delighted and satisfied when they say good and positive things.  Especially if they are positive about what they learned and how they will use it in their life and work.  I always feel crushed by the negative ones (which I can usually guess ahead of time) because there is no way to dialogue about it at that point.... My husband, a veteran teacher says I need a tougher skin!

This last class I taught was tough - there was a vast range of ability and motivation and ages and cultures.....I have high expectations and intend to engage my students intellectually.  If they thought taking care of young children was easy before my class their minds will be changed by the end.  Early Childhood Education is not for the feeble.  It takes great intellectual engagement and high social/emotional intelligence among a host of other skills.  So this class and I struggled with big issues and debated many points of view.  I pushed them hard to think deeply and challenge their assumptions.....some students hated it....others rose wonderfully to the discussion and I saw the lights come on for several of them.

I failed 2 of them and only gave out 3 A's - it is well known my courses are tough and I mark hard.  I am also fair and will go above and beyond for a student who is struggling but motivated to try hard.  I have little time for slackers and the unengaged.  My husband the veteran teacher thinks I should be more empathetic.

So I wasn't expecting much from the evaluations.

To my utter surprise every single one was positive.  It is maybe a truism that when you expect alot  from someone you are showing you think they are worthy and capable?

Last night one of my former students took me and one of their other instructors out for dinner as a thank you.  It was very touching the way she kept on at us through email to find a date and time that worked and how she so badly wanted to show her gratitude.

I know I have often wanted to thank a teacher or instructor and then second guessed myself about how to do it appropriately.  In the end I often just sent a note or email.  I know most teachers / instructors love those notes and cards (as I do) but I must say to see how persistent this student was in extending her gratitude in the way she wanted to was touching.  I told her last night I thought it showed both courage and maturity.  We had a lovely dinner and great chats and enjoyed getting to know her better.  Dinner was lovely but the card she wrote and gave me at the end will be filed away in my treasure box and in my heart.  Such great motivation for my teaching days ahead.

And I will think back to it when I get a thrashing on an evaluation form and know that I had a positive influence on at least one student!


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