Thursday, April 10, 2003

Tought But Fair As Ideal State

I love my students, but I don't need them to love me.

I used to be in it for the glory; then I was in it for the more immediate gratification of the students. But I've discovered that in the classrooms and dorms and public forums of NMH, how they feel about me as a person isn't what counts. The goal of education isn't student happiness, it's student learning. I still work hard to make class fun, but now I do it because I know it aids retention, not just because I'm having fun myself. I'm learning, this year, that if you want to be the best kind of teacher, friendship isn't going to work for every student's learning needs.

Don't get me wrong. It's nice to be loved, and I think I am, by enough of them to matter, though I know as well that some dislike me and my politics. Every year, there are a few students who I consider friends, and I won't pretend I don't appreciate friendship in any form. It's probably those kids who are tipping my rating scales on

Still, if how these few voting students see me as a teacher now is a reflection of a solid sense of what students in general learn with and from me -- and I'd like to think it is -- I seem to be getting it right these days. I'm averaging a 2.6 out of five for easiness and a 4.4 out of five for clarity and helpfulness. Hard, relevant, and worth it. All signs, as the eight ball says, point to yes. Students speak of me as tough but fair. More and more often, I hear that students respect me for being honest with them about my motives, open about my pedagogy; for being a role model comfortable with my moral core and not afraid to push a little at both of us.

The real mark of student success isn't whether she looks you up ten and twenty years down the line to say thanks -- you changed my life. It's whether their life changes at all. Like a fine wine, I want my students learn to age well and mature over time, so that they are still learning from me years after they've left my classroom. I love being one of those teachers who students think about coming back to visit, years later, to say your class was difficult, but you made all the difference, but as long as they can think clearly about their world and their place in it, my vocation is fulfilling; I am fulfilled. I don't want proteges; I want thinkers. And sometimes the best way for a student under my tutelage to learn to think for themselves is to push them harder than they think they want to be pushed -- at least, that's what I tell myself when I see that one student wrote that I was a bit of a dick.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:12 AM |

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