I get one of two reactions when I tell people I am a high school teacher. The first reaction is, “You could practically be in high school yourself!” (to which I usually reply, “Yes, thank you. I am very aware of that”). The second reaction is, “I could think of nothing worse than teaching high school”.
One of my New Years’ resolutions is to enjoy my students more: talk to them more, give them more attention, be more involved in their lives. As a teacher, I hold a very valuable position in the development of our nation’s youth. So, during this first week back, I have been reflecting on all the reasons I love teaching high school. Mostly, I love the privilege of being a spectator and watching my students grow into young men and women.
High school marks a variety of milestones: getting your driver’s license, going on your first date, your first break up, gaining your best friend and losing your best friend. You start thinking about your future, take the ACT, sign up for activities and realize you are not as talented as you originally thought. My two favorite grades to teach are freshmen and seniors for this very reason: I get to be a spectator in their development. I get to watch them make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, I get to watch them learn and grow and revive, I get to watch them make better choices and succeed (embarrassed to admit this, but I have been known to tear up a little bit in class for these reasons…definitely cried last year when my seniors left because I was so proud of them and so excited for the journey they have yet to embark upon…)
People always say that college is the time of your life when you “discover yourself”, which I will absolutely not refute; I learned so much about myself, the kinds of people I get along with, what kind of goals I have for myself, etc. during my college years. However, when I think about the decisions I made and the person I became, it was because of some crucial teachers and coaches I had during my high school career. I always found myself thinking, “How would Ange handle this situation?”….”What might Cordray say about this?”….”How might my dad react to that comment?”. While I definitely did most of my self exploration in college, I needed those experiences in high school to work as a guide.
There is nothing more rewarding that seeing a kid’s face light up with they finally understand what “the cornice but a mound” means in Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” , hearing them talk about Romeo and Juliet at lunch, having a senior come back and thank you for hounding them with MLA format. I feel, as a duty to my country, it is my responsibility to teach my students how to form their own thoughts, how to create their own opinions, how to analyze situations to make informed decisions. The current state of society we live in can be very disheartening; we are raising our children to be amble receivers of information; they are used to staring at a television screen or a video game and absorbing the information, without much thought. To see the wheels in their brain moving and the light bulbs going off, growing, analyzing, interpretation is a very rewarding experience. One of my favorite things to do (as creepy as it may be) is to stand at the front of my class while the kids are working and just observe. I love watching the friendships that build just because they are stuck together in my class all semester. I love hearing them argue about a topic I brought up. I love watching them plan how they are going to ask the “man of their dreams” to Sadie Hawkins and what color their dress looks like. While I take NO credit in any of this happening, I feel very fortunate that I can be a spectator in the development of these young adults.
I love teaching high school, because I get to watch my students become their own people and flourish.