Reflections on teaching and teachers

It has always surprised me how many teachers seem to hate their jobs.  There are people I work with who never seem to have a positive word to say about their students.  It seems like the mere word STUDENT is enough to invoke a torrent of disdain and barely surpressed rage. 

Teaching is a LOT of work.  I can’t imagine doing all this if I didn’t enjoy it!!! I also can’t imagine students who wouldn’t realize that their teacher/instructor/professor doesn’t like teaching/students and respond accordingly.

 I hear people complaining constantly, in seriously derogatory terms about how students don’t read, they don’t think, they don’t understand, they don’t do.  This bothers me on several different levels. 

 Firstly, I currently have about 59 students.  There are classes where some have not read/thought/done/understood.  I like to avoid generalizing in such a negative way though.  Some is not the same as all.  Very basic.  Some students(people) might arguably be lazy, rude, whatever… SOME are also brilliant, motivated, curious, enthusiastic, engaged.  I’d rather see the glass half full.

 Secondly, there is something enormously hypocritical about grad students who don’t do their own work stomping their feet and bitching about students not doing their work.  Well… hmmm… step back and think about that for a minute.

Finally, I think it misses the role that teachers play in areas like motivation.  My job goes beyond writing an assignment on the board and telling them “Do it! Cause I said so!”  I have to build in factors to motivate, to encourage, to evaluate.  I can’t just leave it at “They don’t x” and shift the blame off myself as a teacher. 

A few weeks ago I went into class all excited to discuss the short story they had been assigned to read.  Less than half the class had read.  I expressed to them my disappointment because I was looking forward to hearing their reactions and talking about the story.  I also explained that because I had noticed not everyone was reading, I was going to institute a new policy.  I explained that as a way to avoid lecturing, berating or pop quizzes I was asking them to write a response to each reading– a short response but a critical one.  They will get credit for it and I will be happier because they have read.   This has worked well and led to even deeper discussions because they have sat down and thought about the story for at least a few minutes.  I know for some classes responses don’t work well. Then I would have tried something else!

What I didn’t do is storm back to my office and bitch about how “they” never read, or these damn kids or something equally useless. I didn’t resort to name calling or to vacuous complaining or talking about what a BAD group I have this semester.  I didn’t make it about me either: they don’t listen to ME, they hate ME, they are out to get ME.

 I have to say, I love my students.  I tell them regularly that they rock.  Each class is different, has its own inside-jokes, class dynamics and strengths.  I have students visit my office to chat sometimes.  I’ve even had students from past semesters drop by to visit.  I love it!  I truly enjoy them.  I learn a lot from my students. They keep me on my toes, they make me laugh, and sometimes cry, they make me see things from different perspectives and they force me to keep growing. 

 Why else would I work at a job that:

 requires you take work home every day

which is in most cases (certainly in mine) underpaid and underappreciated

which is demanding and requires way more than 9-5. 

Why?  If I thought they were stupid or out to get me, why not just go find a nice office job where I don’t have to deal with people?? 

If teaching doesn’t bring you joy, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to those you teach by remaining in the profession.

And I’m off the soapbox. But only because I have papers to read. 




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