Token Black Girl

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Teachable Moment

I'd like to be a teacher. I am working at it currently and cannot wait to make it through the monotony of the teacher credentialing process. Most of the content is informative at very least but showing up to long classes and the homework can be a real drag. To be honest, just this last week I was seriously considering quitting. Things had been going very poorly in my life and I had the sinking feeling that I was flying out of control. In my life control is a big deal. I was feeling very down and things seemed to be getting worse before they got better. You know the old saying that when it rains it pours? Yeah well my life was looking like a level 5 hurricane. I thought that maybe I should take a break. Maybe this was all too much and I could pick school back up when my life was in less chaos. Teaching can wait right? It waited this long, it won’t go anywhere.




Then on Monday morning I decided to make some surprise visits to my niece and nephew’s classrooms. I experienced great disappointment and considerable pleasure all in one day. Being back on a school campus really woke something up in me. My niece is in kindergarten. By sheer coincidence she is attending the same school that I and all my siblings attended in elementary school and has the same kindergarten teacher I had 25 years ago. I watched her tell stories and teach a lesson in the same rapt I did when I was only 5 years old. A good teacher never fails to teach a student, even when they don’t mean to. She was teaching them social skills and introducing a new topic (colors), but she was teaching me how to teach. I was reminded of who I used to be in a classroom, of how much I loved getting my students engaged.

During my visit I gave the teacher my “call me if you need anything” speech that all parents say but few truly mean and the woman had a packet of work for me to help with before I could make it out the door. Talk about being on top of things! I immediately remembered the excitement behind creating a lesson or activity to present to your students and the elation of seeing it work. Man do I miss that gratification. It’s addictive, but better than any drug. The results are real, no hallucinations necessary. I walked out of my niece’s classroom with an inkling of a memory of why I got into this in the first place. I love children and I love teaching. I love reaching out to those who seem unreachable. I love the challenge of a new topic or a new idea being presented to a new group of learners. I love hearing students shout an answer confidently, I miss that. I even miss the hard stuff and the things that are difficult to do. I miss them because they mattered . They had a real affect on lives of others.


While the kindergarten class was an amazing experience it was still just a prerequisite to the main idea. While my niece ate lunch in the cafeteria I walked around the campus where I and my siblings attended school so many years ago. In my wanderings I came upon room 8, Ms. Boyles classroom. When I was in third grade I believe she was in room 7, but that appeared to be the only change. I remember Ms. Boyles as having been my favorite teacher ever. I couldn’t remember what she did specifically. I couldn’t remember what made her so special back then, but I knew I had to see her, even if it meant interrupting her class. So I walk in to room 8 with absolutely no expectations whatsoever. The moment I did Ms. Boyles looked up and said, “Can I help you?” but before I could respond she said, “no wait, I remember” she sat there for a moment and I froze up just the way any kid would under the sudden attention of their teacher during class. All of her current 3rd graders were staring up at me, having no idea what was going on. Then she called me by name. She remembered my name. That was it that is what made her my favorite all of those years ago. She acknowledged me, and that acknowledgment meant so much. She asked me what I was doing with my life and when I said that I was working on my credential she beamed and said how proud she was. It meant as much to me this week as it would have 18 years ago in her class, maybe even more. What a teachable moment. She remembered me, she acknowledged me, I was important enough after all these years to remember. That to me was better than being a kid on Christmas. That felt so good to me. It made me remember how small simple things you do can affect the life a child so much. I was that child at one point, and her acknowledgment meant something to me. It still does. It reminded me that I want to have the effect in a child’s life one day. I want to inadvertently change someone’s mind and opinion about their future and have no idea, just by being nice, just by acknowledging their value as a human being. My 3rd grade teacher taught me more in this 3 minute conversation than in the entire 3rd grade (multiplication and division obviously didn’t stick). She taught me that those small gestures and nuances of being a teacher can change the world, can change a life. That means more than any standard you can teach. That is a lesson I will treasure for the rest of my life. And so today I showed up for class, weary and wounded, but still trying to make Ms. Boyles proud.

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