Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I do What I Do

Teaching is a fickle profession.

I left work yesterday completely defeated. My students took a quarterly reading assessment earlier in the week, and the results were discouraging, to say the least. I'm not usually one to worry about standardized tests, but we're getting more pressure than ever to raise these damn test scores, and if nothing else, my pride was wounded. Jerry Maguire was good at closing deals, I like to think I'm good at raising my students' test scores. I drove home in silence, doubting myself, searching for answers.

Another day, a new perspective. One of my former students is a junior at West Point. He's in town for a few days, and he went to talk to kids in the JROTC program at his old high school. Meg works at the school, so I told her to send my regards and invite him to stop by my school if he got a chance. I don't work at the middle school he attended any more, so I didn't expect him to come by, but sure enough, he did. It was probably more of an afterthought, but our Assistant Principal asked if he'd like to talk to some of our students, and without blinking an eye, he agreed.

So today I had the privilege of introducing this amazing young man to my 2nd period students. My students are predominantly Mexican American, many of them from poor families. Here was this dashing (the looks on the girls' faces were priceless), humble, intelligent young man who looks like them, grew up in the same kind of neighborhood, proof positive of what hard work can do. Watching my former student talk to my current students was a sublime experience. It's something I won't soon forget. It's the kind of thing standardized tests can't measure, can't take away. It's why I do what I do.

15 comments:

  1. well you probably do what you do because you have loads more patience and understanding than me, Tim

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  2. Sounds like the perfect way to end the week.

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  3. That right there is the reason why a lot of people teach.

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  4. A wonderful slice. You obviously had a positive influence on that young man. I'm sure it meant so much to everyone.

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  5. Kids only come back for the good teachers. And for him to have come by to see you at another school speaks volumes. You must be doing something right.
    ;)

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  6. I doubt myself too. And then someone told me that people who doubt themselves are the people who actually care.

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  7. Tim I have no doubt you are the teacher that many students will never forget. You teach with your heart.

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  8. Okay, I'm inspired. Thank you for the great work you do.

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  9. My father was a teacher and at one point the principal of the alternative school. There were some kids he could never reach. What spoke volumes to me was when he passed away and we were having visitation. There was a young man, maybe my age, who stood at Daddy's open casket for a long time crying. Afterwards, I thought he had left, but saw him sitting alone in the chapel, head in hands. It was one of Daddy's unreachable students who realized at some point what Daddy was trying to do for him. You may not see the results of your own work immediately. But they will show up eventually.

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  10. David: I was a pretty irritating kid when I was in the 8th grade, so that helps me to stay patient with my students.

    Jill: Indeed it was!

    OT: Very true.

    PAMO: You never know, for some kid in that room it may have been an aha kind of moment, realizing that they too can make it.

    Jayne: Thanks for that Jayne.

    dbs: Yep. I guess we know we've stopped caring when we stop doubting ourselves.

    Nubian & Munk: Thanks, means a lot to me.

    TGW: This is a beautiful story, thank you for sharing this. I'm a little verklempt right now.

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  11. This is a wonderful reward and beautiful story. I am sure, Tim, that you are very good teacher. You care about your students. For me, it is the most important part in your profession.

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  12. Squilla's AuntMarch 13, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    Tim - One of the things that I think you do well is spark a love of reading, a love of learning, in students. That's huge, but it might not always translate immediately into reading ability. Long-term, though, that love of reading, that curiousity, will not only serve them well for a lifetime, but will show up in test results. Have faith!

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  13. I don't have any teaching experience and you sound excellent to be sure. However, I think kids are coddled too much these days. I think they lack serious discipline and most of that begins in the homes in which they are raised. Parents could learn a lot from Professor Chua (Tiger Mom) in teaching / raising their kids.

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  14. Squilla: Thanks Jody!

    Michael: Discipline is definitely an issue for many kids these days. I like to describe my teaching style as a cross between Bobby Knight and Father Flanagan.

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  15. I grew up with two languages in my household: Thai and English. Although I'm grateful now, it was a struggle as a child to fully grasp either as quickly as my peers could grasp just one.

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