Thanks to the Twitter I have recently learned about a phenomenon that began last spring. What I discovered, thanks to this post, was the movement around #iwishmyteacherknew. In an abbreviated nutshell, #iwishmyteacherknew started when a self-described “suburban girl” started teaching in a poverty school and wanted to try to better understand and empathize with the realities of her students. (Not original, but a great sentiment that I wish all teachers would have.) It went nasty when unedited student responses, in the student’s handwriting, showed up on Twitter and later were published into a book. Nothing like using the vulnerability and trust a student has to make a family’s struggle widely known, and then profit from it.
But I need to keep myself focused here. I thought it was an interesting idea and was wondering if there were any #iwishmystudentsknew out there so that students could better understand the peculiar manners and methods of their teachers. (This might be a high school thing coming out in me, as I don’t know how many elementary kids could comprehend the different experiences, or, would honestly care.) Unfortunately, #iwishmystudentsknew was already occupied with a collection of generic uplifting messages that sound like they were taken from pamphlets in the guidance counselors office or statements about the self-pitying martyred teacher. Everything was either, “You’re so amazing and you can achieve anything,” or , “I’ve worked 18 hours this weekend.”
I hope that I can help reinvent #iwishmystudentknew into a place where students can discover the experiences that make their teachers unique. Just as understanding my students backgrounds can make me a more effective teacher, I hope that if my students understand me it will make them more effective students.
So, without further delay, here is a list of experience that has shaped my teaching experiences. They should be in relative chronological order.
- I nearly flunked out of college. Seriously. Fall semester 2002, academic probation.
- I walked out on student teaching, and almost never came back. That’s right, in the middle of a class…I…just…left.
- I taught in an alternative school that housed several gang members. This was a big culture shock.
- I realized I could “do” math, but didn’t understand math. I kept answering questions with, “That’s just the way it is.“
- I took a graduate History class. Really made me examine what I considered knowledge. Also, first time I experienced a class without the “this is stupid” cloud of apathy lingering.
- I found out several of my students were being put into remedial math after high school. That’s kind of humiliating.
- I admitted to several students that I had no idea what I was doing. Who’s ready to watch their teacher have a nervous breakdown?
- I became obsessed with why we forget things. Because if there is no point in remembering what we learned that means school is basically a pris…errr, warehouse for adolescents.
- I started to understand the power of being under prepared. I actually kind of wing it during class, but I probably shouldn’t admit that.
- I put around 20% of my students in summer school. OBEY ME OR I WILL FLUNK YOU!!! I’M TRYING TO TEACH YOU TO BE A RESPONSIBLE MEMBER OF SOCIETY!!!
- I started to realize how much many of my students remind me of myself. Holy Regret Batman!
- I personally watched a student go through anxiety over grades. Try blubbering bawling in front of your teacher sometime. Not that cute little sniffle stuff. I mean runny, snotty nose, disgusting bawling.
- I learned how to care about my students. I care, I really care. I also learned why that is so important.
- I realized that I am an introverted teacher. It can really be a draining experience for me. Like, litereally.
- I realized authentic learning is really, really disorganized and messy. If it’s easy, it isn’t learning.
- I decided that lectures suck. If lectures are so great why not just replace me with KHAAAANNNNNNNN!!!!!
- I decided that I would do the right thing, regardless of how it would effect my job security. I guess “Ineffective” isn’t a good thing.
- I decided to break the typical social contract found in schools. I guess I got tired of teaching obedience.
- I think some students like the obedience aspect of schools. That last one really stings.
Well, there’s the list of unique experiences that have shaped who I am as a teacher. I’m sure there’s more, but it’s what I could come up with off the top of my head. I plan on elaborating on these more. Are there any you would like me to begin with?