I finally finished. Happy Valentines Day, TeacherLeaders.
Why I #LoveTeaching
I love teaching because students hate me. Did that get your attention? That’s right! Pay attention, because I expect my students to pay attention and that’s one of the reasons they hate me.
I didn’t always know that students hated me. I’m downright adorable, so how on earth could students hate me? It was a revelation to me when many years ago, a dear counselor, who’s now gone, told me that she had more complaints about me during the first month of school than for any other teacher.
“What do you mean, Joyce?” I cried. I then explained to her how adorable I am.
She laughed at me and said that kids loved me at the end of the year, but not so much at the beginning. I was furious. I was so angry that I started my next class with, “How many of you went to counseling and tried to drop this class?” More than half of the kids raised their hands. I was devastated. Thanks to my training in public relations, I knew that I had to do some damage control.
I spent the rest of the day chronicling all the grievances my English and journalism students had against me.
- You expect us to be on time and glare at us if we’re late.
- You expect us to have our assignments done prior to class and won’t let us finish Calculus during English.
- You call our moms with bad news.
- You call our moms with good news.
- You love literature and expect us to feel the same way.
- You take the school newspaper too seriously and expect us to write researched facts, not opinion.
- You won’t let us kiss our boyfriends/girlfriends in the hall during passing periods.
- You expect us to participate in class even when we don’t raise our hands.
- If we’re absent you call our houses to find out why and you offer to bring homework for us.
- You refuse to grade some of our essays until we revise them and won’t let us be happy with a grade of C.
- You say that zeroes are not an option and keep on nagging us until we do the assignment.
- If we don’t have paper, pens, or pencils, you give them to us…
Oh, the list went on and on. It was pretty clear that they hated me, and it was also clear that I was guilty of everything on their list. After my boards were full of their dislikes, I surrendered. I told my students that they were right about me; however, I assured them that I was an acquired taste and I guessed that they would just have to hate me, because I was positive that I couldn’t change.
I often tell my classes that they enter the door as students, but they leave as friends. As the year sped toward graduation, I realized that it was time for the post-test, the anonymous evaluation to see how I rated as a teacher for them.
Question 1: “What are some things you hate about this class or the teacher?”
Answers included that I told bad jokes, sometimes they weren’t sure if I was kidding or serious, their moms liked me and believed everything I said, and I wouldn’t accept students getting a zero on an assignment. Some of the answer sections were blank, or had the simple statement, “I love you,” written on them.
Question 2: “What are some things you loved about this class/the teacher?”
This was where recognition started to appear on students’ faces as they once again recited their litanies of hate that had become “loves.”
“I love how excited you get about the stories and articles we read. It makes me get excited, too.”
“I love how you expect the best from us. This makes me want to do my best.”
“I love how when my writing sucks, you make me redo it because you know I’m a good writer.”
“I love how not trying is not an option in this class. I probably owe you at least a hundred pencils.”
“I love how on days that you knew I was hungry, you always managed to find some extra food in your lunchbox.”
“I loved how when I missed three days for strep throat, you called my house and said that you missed me.”
After 28 years of teaching, I’m still mean at the beginning of school, I still tell my students that I am an acquired taste, and I still expect them to be better than they think they are. And I still expect that I’ll #LoveTeaching for the rest of my life.