The Upside to a Kick in the Shin
I taught at my first school for five years. It was the high school that I attended as a student, an engineering and science public magnet school in Baltimore City.
In my first couple years teaching, I taught around 240 different students each year. I taught around 150 students each day. I would have students who just took my class the previous semester say hello to me in the hallway, and I would sometimes struggle to remember their name (I’d think back to where they sat in the classroom, then picture my roster, then get to the name) - I’d remember faces, but not always the names.
After I accepted a new job, at some point I informed my own students, and word got around. There was a girl I taught in her 9th grade year whom I barely saw in school over the next couple years. In the late winter of her 11th grade year, after she heard that I was leaving, she came to visit me in my office with a couple other students. While her two friends expressed sadness that I was leaving, she was angry and even kicked me: “How can you leave us, right before our senior year?!”
I had little idea that this particular student even remembered that she took my class, let alone that it or I mattered so much to her. And it did matter to her, more than I could really even understand; I mean, how could she be upset about my leaving?
Teaching is an immense opportunity, and it’s also an immense responsibility. How many times each day to I unknowingly give a student a hurtful look, say something insensitive off the cuff, mishear, misunderstand, or misrepresent them? Likewise, how many kids each year do I awaken to something they’d never seen before, inspire in a way they’d never felt before, or acknowledge, respect, or grant space and expression without even noticing that I’m doing it?
My vision is that teachers understand and own the foundation of their experience so that they can most effectively, clearly, and enjoyably engage the full potential and possibility of students. My intention for students is that they grow and master their capacity for authentic, supportive, and mutually beneficial relationships. Humanity and our societies need this awakening.
A downside might be a shin that aches for a couple hours, but the upside is a kid awakened to something about themselves that they’ll never forget.️
Thanks for reading. ❤️
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