We got it figured out once we moved to Colorado, took classes, established residency, and put ourselves through CU.
But back when we were in Junior High and High school, we were not engaged. We both have natural curiosity and loved to learn. We both love to read. Reading is pretty much all I did for as long as I can remember. When I was in Junior High I think I read 3-5 books a week. Probably more.
We both took different paths to becoming teachers. Danny wanted to be a veterinarian, so he studied science. I wanted to be a psychologist, so I studied psychology. Danny realized (after volunteering at a veterinarian’s) that he didn’t like the human side of veterinary practice, mostly the irresponsible pet owners. But he realized he loved studying science. I realized I loved learning about psychology, but it wasn’t my passion.
So, I switched to English literature, my real passion. It was a passion I ignored when I was told I wasn’t a good reader and writer.
Danny switched to biological science.
Then, I realized that the best “job” for an English Lit major was to be an English teacher.
I had never thought about being a teacher, but I remembered so many of my high school friends telling me I’d be a good teacher. I had always laughed at that because I wasn’t even a good student.
So, I explored it. I went to a middle school in Boulder to visit a few classrooms. The day I went, there was an all-school assembly, and the entire middle school was raucously walking to the gym. The presentation was engaging, and I laughed and was intrigued along with the students. When I met up with the first teacher, she asked me how I was doing, coming into the school on such a crazy day. I lit up and said I loved it. I loved the energy. She nodded and told me I must be meant to be a middle school teacher.
At another school, I observed a special education teacher who was phenomenal. When we met one on one, she asked me what I most looked forward to in teaching. I immediately responded with “getting to know the students and helping them find their voices.” She told me I was a teacher already and would be great. She told me most people answered that with “setting up my classroom”. That shocked me. But it made me realize I was on the right path. I loved the crazy energy of middle schoolers, and apparently I had the right attitude.
As I was moving my educational path toward teaching, Danny realized he wanted to teach. My energy and excitement was a part of his thought process, but he realized something way before I did. He realized that he wanted to teach because he wasn’t a happy student.
Danny wanted to be the teacher who cared about students’ ideas, and he wanted to be a part of a collective curiosity that explored, learned, and grew.
One of my administrators once told me there were two “types” of teachers: those who were good students and those who were not. More labels.
Well, with regard to that label, we were the not. And it has made all the difference.
In my last blog I said I’d tackle labels. Well, here they are:
- That kid
- That kid that’s like that other kid
- Doesn’t care
- Won’t try
- Does everything but what they need to do
- All they care about is…
- They’ll never change
- All they want to do is...
I could go on. I wonder sometimes what labels teachers had for me, and for Danny. I’m guessing I was labelled as lazy and only wanting to read.
Lazy is a label. It’s easy. But it’s a label. And it’s not right to call anyone lazy. I sometimes say I’m lazy when I spend Saturday morning on the couch watching old movies, but it’s just something I need. I don’t let students say they’re lazy. What they are is disinterested. We all have wildly different interests and passions. I have a student who called himself lazy, but he’s putting together a proposal for a huge online gaming competition. He’s not lazy. He’s selective.
Labels help. They categorize, so we can shorthand a conversation. But, they don’t belong in our human avocation in teaching. We must find the gold in the student. We must keep trying to help them find the gold. We must be relentless in this.
I see myself sometimes understanding one student’s lack of follow-through and then not understanding another’s, and it jars me how easy it is to judge, to label. I have this one student whom I get on so much, and then I wonder why I get on this student but not another? After all these years, I have so much to learn and so many places to grow.
So, I am on a mission to not label and to help others to not label. Serendipitously, Danny just came by to tell me a story about a student and about a quote he’d wanted to share with her. This is not a direct quote. It is the idea:
“Your life is your own path and no one can have the same one.”
Because we are all on different paths, we should seek to understand, not judge. Not label.
I’m curious to know how other educators frame their thinking with students who don’t fit a “norm.”
Goal: Keep working on empathy.
Gratitude: That I wasn’t that good student. That Danny wasn’t that good student. That we really try to understand all of our students. That we get to be teachers.
Gratitude 4.0: Logan Rosebrock, a student who designed my new Happy Blogah banner. All he wanted was for me to post a new blog post and credit the banner. I need to do more for him. And...a shout out to all the amazing banners that students submitted.
Next Up: Lots of ideas, but I’m in Happy Smackah and track season, so I’m busy and not being as reflective as I should be. I’m thinking that I want to blog about how amazing my students are. I cannot even begin to express how authentic their work is.