“But as we talked, her continual conversation came back to — “but Jen, you know so much more” and I continue to remind her that I have been at this since 1995….but I still send a frustration in her voice that seems to say “will I ever catch up?””
This conversation made me think about my relationship with my students. I wondered if they felt the same way and were overwhelmed by me as a teacher. I usually inform them about my education and my years experience but does that really matter to them? I have been knitting for about a year now and can still only do basic stuff. Yet, when I go to my knitting group, they are doing lots of fancy stuff and making exciting things.Will I ever reach that point when I can do something like that? Some have told me that they have been doing this for years but others have not and are doing complicated stuff. I feel frustrated because I want to do this now, not in the future. I know exactly how my students feel.
Does our system constantly make our students feel as if they know nothing and will never get to the point where they feel knowledgeable? Do we constantly point out their insufficiencies? Do we focus more on what they can’t do rather than acknowledge their strengths? Or do we unconsciously send the message that all they need to do is graduate and that is the end of their education. It seems like we focus too much on telling these kids they don’t know enough and need to try harder to meet the standards that our state sets. Then when they passed the exit exam to graduate, my students felt like, “Okay, my learning is done. I’ve mastered what they said I needed to know.”
I want my students to know that learning will take place throughout their lives. I want to teach them how to go about learning something new that they want to learn. I want them to know where to look for information, where to go for help, and how to find the support they need. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to learn how to do something but not knowing how to go about doing so.
I also want my students to know that they do not have to know the same amount of “stuff” that someone else knows and know it all by the same time. I demonstrated this to my class when I was trying to learn how to juggle (I just thought it would be a neat thing to learn how to do) and had so much trouble learning. Finally a student had to show me over and over before I finally got the hang of it. Then I explained that here was someone younger than me that knew different things than I did and that was okay. This was a perfect time to talk about different strengths and interests that people have and that it was okay to cultivate them. That is why a car mechanic works on my car and not an eye doctor. Of course I don’t want a car mechanic to perform eye surgery on me either. Yet I don’t feel that one profession is “better “than another because both were extremely important to me.
I explain to my students that even with all my college degrees, it doesn’t make me “better” than them. I only have more book knowledge than them and I am there to help them find their way in the world. They need to find a career that will make them happy and independent. This was impressed on them when my car’s oil pan was leaking and needed to be welded back together and a former special education student fixed my car for me. All my college degrees would not have helped my car get fixed quickly enough for me to use it. Eventually I might have learned how to fix it myself but I would have had to do without transportation for a lot longer than I could afford.
Sometimes it is hard to see success when you are the one climbing up a mountain. But when you get to the top and look down, you can feel proud of your successes. I hope that I can help my students reach the top.
Original image: 'AgullesAmitges.jpg' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29624180@N04/2846595888 by: Xavier Varela