There are good days. There are really good, rock solid days.
…and there are bad ones.
Like many seasoned teachers before me, I now understand that every day in the teaching world is like a little microcosm unto itself. Yes, sometimes it’s possible to feed off of inertia built up early in the week, but more often every day seems different, a clean and wonderful slate to fill. (In my case, literally, since I have an old-school slate chalkboard.) Of course, that slate-filling doesn’t always go according to plan.
But when I have an off day of teaching, I like to think of things that have happened which affirm my belief in myself as a teacher, and nothing speaks truer to that than the words of my students themselves. While I’ve had my share of resistance, I’ve also caught a few young scholars that really “get” the ideas and messages that I’m so desperately trying to get across Monday through Friday.
One senior who is an AP student is taking my regular English section as an elective because she loves my class and the way I teach. Having left Rufus King for “lack of challenge,” she considers my discussion-oriented literature class at MSL intriguing and “awesome.” Bless you, child.
Another one of my seniors named me the “first teacher to make English not boring.” You might as well have handed me eighty dollars. “You make things actually interesting,” he says, “You’re the best teacher ever, you know?” And I respond with my trademark, expressionless, “Oh, I know.” Bemused as they are by my no-nonsense, intense demeanor, my students have no idea how inside I’m yelling, “HECK YEAH!” when I hear things like that.
One girl in my Writing Lab class raised her hand one morning to ask, “What is this? Why do you teach like this? It’s new, it’s different… Where did you get this? Is it just all you? Because it’s amazing.” I told her the truth: that “this” is heavily influenced by the writing workshop model of Nancie Atwell, as well as my college level writing center work, but that also–yes–it is part of my teaching philosophy to be a teacher that asks students every day to think, work together, create, with me by their sides just until they can stand all by themselves. At that point, I can just sit back and smile, knowing they’ve got it.
I don’t accomplish my goals every day. I am not the best teacher every day. I do, sometimes, feel totally tired out and confused. But once in a while, on a great day, I am The Best Teacher. And that’s what it’s all about.