Periodically, I like to pull out my lovely little soapbox, stand on it, and rant. So, the soapbox (it’s name is Fred, thank you very much) is out and I’m here to rant. Cover your ears if you wish…and consider yourself warned.
I’m a teacher assistant. This means (according to my university) that I spend about 15-20 hours a week with a professional teacher in the field working in her classroom while also taking a few (four) seminars on teaching.
What this really means: I’m at my school, which we’ll call WCA, for about 23 or 24 hours a week. I run around a building with a very talented and very overworked teacher who loves her students more than words could ever express. Senora, as we will call her for the next few months, has over 650 students in about 27 classes over nine grade levels. I see a little over half of these kids/classes. In between teaching them manners and loving them and being kind to them when no one else is, we try to teach them Spanish. And somewhere in there, we have to grade papers, make copies, and go to the bathroom. Then, I go to my university and take four seminars PLUS an additional non-college of education class in the afternoon/evenings. I have to put up with idealistic professors and classmates who haven’t realized that we don’t all teach in ideal schools/circumstances. (And I know that my school is a pretty good school/placement as far as things go. I honestly love it there-people, location etc.) I also have homework to do at home. And then, I have to find time to sleep, eat, shower, socialize, and believe in God. I try to get eight hours of sleep but that rarely happens.
In other words, (to quote Monty Python) “We used to have to get out of the lake at six o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of ‘ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!”
In other words, it’s not an easy job. And one of the hardest parts as that somewhere in the past four weeks, I started to love my kids. They aren’t just my students anymore; they’re my kids. Senora calls them her “bambinos” and tells them that they’ll be her babies until they’re 18. Umm, I’m not quite ready to go there yet, but I love those kids. I have one class that I see three days a week; it’s an advanced class of eighth graders. I may not be that much older than them, but they’re my kids. I don’t want to see them get hurt in life. And I know that life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. I know that.
But I also want them to be safe and loved. I want them to believe that there is still good in the world. This is why last night’s episode of Glee bugged me. It was the Britney Spears episode. And I watched it before I judged it. As an adult, I found it enjoyable. It was kind of a fun spin on the music of my middle school years. But I don’t want my kids seeing this.
Last Thursday, a five-year-old told me that he was going to watch Glee while he ate dinner. Senora and I both raised our eyebrows at each other and moved on. But we both think that it’s inappropriate material for his age. Last night was doubly so. There is a difference between age 5 and age 22-and the subject matter that those ages should see.
On Monday, one of my eighth-grade students told me that he also watches Glee. This didn’t surprise me at all. But it also made Senora and I again raise our eyebrows. Is he old enough for it? As she said, are we as adults really old enough for some of what happens on that show? (Teen pregnancy, “sexting,” complicated male-female relationships etc) The show is amusing. The dialogue is witty. The music is wonderful. But is it appropriate for a 13-year-old? I’m not sure. That’s a parental decision. And if R were my child, he would not watch this show. But I’m his teacher, not his mother. I can’t control what he watches at home.
I can’t control any of these children’s home-lives or pasts or anything. I can only try to make my classroom the best possible place for them to be during the 30-45 minutes (depending on the class) that I’m their teacher. And that is hard. It’s challenging as teacher. It requires large cups of coffee. It requires a lot of rest that I don’t get. It requires support in my personal life-that I don’t always get. (Note to my friends: Sometimes, I really do not want your analysis of what is going on in my teaching life. Sometimes, I just need a listening ear. Do not try to fix what you do not understand. Just listen.)
In the end, all I can do is love them and try to show them that in all I do. I think that perhaps it was St. Francis of Assisi-a teacher of sorts, who wrote my educational philosophy for me when he said:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
That is the teacher I want to be. May God help me.