This was a former student’s Facebook status when I browsed through my profile page tonight. She wrote: “Happiness in a Teacher: Students who constantly surprise you with their rich insights. An exchange of energies that leave both parties the richer. A broadening of views that creates new perspectives.” I clicked on the like button. It’s indeed a nice Facebook status.
As a teacher, this status is right up my alley, making me wish that I could share her joy and my students surprise me. Don’t get me wrong; there are some students who do astound me with their insights into issue, their vocabulary and the simple aplomb when they go up to the front of the class for their turn in Show –and –Tell. But then that’s almost like a blue moon shining through the night sky. And as if my guardian angels, Gabriele and Mara, were not that busy watching over other people, the two led me to an old book that I bought almost 13 years ago from the Crystal Cathedral Book and Gift Center in Garden Grove, California. I was visiting my grandaunt and her family then, and I went to church with them one Sunday. Written by Karen Katafiasz and with cheerful illustrations by R.W. Alley, Teacher Therapy is a pocket-sized booklet of sound and realistic advice for those days when you feel like throwing in the towel because there is no more hope in the future generation. It was more than throwing in the towel for me. I wanted to jump off the world for a while.
I’d forgotten about the book and, one fine day, it popped out of nowhere and within my sight. Can you say serendipitous? Flipping through the pages, I landed on advice number 23: “Take care of yourself mentally. Keep learning; follow your interests. This will enhance and energize your life and give you new dimensions to share with your students.” Right there and then I dropped my marking papers-chore and picked up Beowulf and, later on, The Calculus Diaries.
The next time I picked it up I landed on advice number 15: “…Mistakes aren’t reasons for shame but chances to learn and do better.” That had me wondering how I could make my students see a mistake differently. I then I rewrote my “love notes” (read: remarks on their essays and other papers): I took out two exclamation points and wrote in smaller letters.
I picked up again tonight after a trying day at school earlier on. My gaze settled on the Foreword, which I’m ruminating on as I write this entry. It seems I just need to remember to tell myself that teaching is tough and that each student “places demands on (me) that require (me) to respond with (my) entire being – body, mind and spirit.”