Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On questioning myself as a teacher

Every year I feel as though I'm doing something right and then again I feel as though everything I do is wrong. I am cloaked in the aroma of breast milk because my wonderful students seem so needy. From asking questions that I've already answered multiple times to sharing with me that they think they are pregnant.

At first, I felt honored to be that trusted adult who they needed in their corner. I thought, I'm doing a good job of showing a glimmer of humanity in action; compassion, care and concern. But somehow it has grown into a draining experience of having to address students as they shout out their needs (absences, reading comprehension issues, I didn't do the original assignment, can I turn it in now). I want them to think that no question is dumb and feel as though I'm accessible. But I'm not sure that I am accessible because I think some questions (and their answers to questions) are dumb.

I think my students have been systemically robbed of good educations; they have been reared to accept and demonstrate learned helplessness. I believe the problem in part stems from internalized racism that shouts, "they can't do any better, let's give them word finds" (yes, a colleague of mine has done that).

I'm at a loss as to where to go and what to do on a daily basis. I sometimes have successful lesson plans and sometimes lesson plans that lack rigor because my students haven't learned how to think critically and/or construct cohesive sentences.

I want to be someone they can trust, but the HIV diagnoses, pregnancy scares, abortions, cheating on boyfriend/baby-daddy has begun to become depressing. What am I not doing that I can't run interference and help with prevention?

I want to be that English teacher who introduced them to their favorite author, helped them become critical readers and started them on the path to writing well. What do I need to be doing as a teacher to address their academic shortcomings and impress upon them the intellectual and emotional value of reading literature?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! These are stuggles that most, if not all, teacher experience. I recently mentioned to Jenn that it is saddening to witness a cyclical pattern of "Student already knows the he/she cannot succeed" or poor parenting. I wish I can create a device to fix everything, but in the meantime I'll try my best at this teaching thing. Stay strong Jennifer. You'll be in our prayers.