There are times when as teachers we sit back and wonder why we continue teaching. More and more it feels as though we work for not just little pay, but little respect from the outside world. We are constantly working to find new ways to compete with all of the distractions in our students lives. We are trying to reach the students that seem unreachable, teach the students that can seem unteachable. Most importantly we try to give our students a base of knowledge, compassion, drive and the ability to think so they can be successful when they leave our classrooms, no matter what they choose to do later in life.
Of course in the education world driven by achievement and test scores, this often seems like an insurmountable task. As teachers we often look around and feel a sense of hopelessness because it doesn't seem like we are making a difference to anyone. We start to wonder if it is time for us to do something different-we can't imagine what. This is what drives teachers to be constantly changing and evolving what we do. To drive us to find our spark again. In 2011, this brought me to the flipped class movement.
As I look back now and reflect on how far I have come since that conference in Woodland Park with Jon Bergman, Aaron Sams and about 60 other interested flippers, I realize that the biggest change I made had nothing to do with my curriculum. My biggest change was the way I thought about my job and what I did. I stopped thinking that I taught Spanish. I don't teach Spanish at all. I teach students.
My focus on teaching students is helped by the additional time I can spend with each of them in my flipped classroom. I am able to get to know them: how they learn, issues they are working through, challenges they face. Teaching students gives me the power to stop a lesson if someone asks an off-topic question that should be answered. To get side tracked in a good way to promote student thinking and questioning of their education and their life.
This last week I was reminded of the best part of teaching students - the influence that we have on them that sometimes we don't always realize. The best part is that sometimes these students manage to turn up right when we need them; right when we start questioning all that we do. This happened in a few ways for me last week. It started with a small thing, a huge hug from a student who senses you are having a bad day, students that bring you chocolate ice cream because they want you to have a good week, etc. Sometimes it is a Facebook friend request from a student that joined the military and wants to let you know how they are doing. Other times it is a student that contacts you to taunt you about a football rivalry, but also mentions that even though they are in college now, they learned more from you than in any other class.
Then, there are other students, the special ones that maybe you don't want to love, you know they are trouble. However they somehow find their way into your heart. They are the students you give a hard time to because you know that they can be more. The students that aren't making good choices, in school or in life, that you keep trying to get through to. The ones that other teachers, administration, and maybe even their parents don't know what to do with anymore. The ones that goes away for the summer and then doesn't come back. The ones that you find yourself thinking about and wondering about long after they are gone from your class and your school.
Sometimes these students show up out of the blue to thank you for what you did for them: for believing in them, for pushing them, even for giving them a kick in the pants when they needed it. These are the moments that we as teachers live for - to realize that we have truly made a difference. These moments, though often few and far between, can keep a teacher going for months or even years.
Teaching students is what we all do. Forging positive relationships not only makes a difference in our students' lives, but in our own. It is the reason why teachers go to school everyday, plan and grade in their free time, spend summers planning and learning. I think this quote sums up my perspective now more than ever. "Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be." - Rita Pierson
I will continue to strive to be that champion for my students. I don't know any other way to teach.