Many years ago, I learned what to do when I had a student that I dreaded to see coming to class each day; I visited the school counselor. This was where I received my best education; this was also where my heart was broken. Walking away from the counselor’s office, I was often burdened with my new found knowledge about these students’ lives: physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, poverty, basic neglect, and more.
With a clear vision and with compassion, I then approached the student differently. And that made all of the difference.
You can’t educate a child who is hungry, whose body aches from beatings, or who is mentally miserable. You can do your best to resolve the misery, and with a little love, help them become successful, educated young adults.
Fortunately, Ashley wasn’t the worst of my situations that I encountered in my twenty-five years as an educator. She was, however, in desperate need of my mothering her one period a day: praising her successes, pointing out her weaknesses, and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.
She recently graduated from college and is now an English teacher as well as the proud recipient of all of my digital files for teaching grammar, writing, and literature. She will now carry the torch.
She says that I am her role model. With honor, I present to you her blog post regarding the importance of role models in education.
Educational Role Models
Role models are extremely important in education, and our teachers should be role models. The sad truth, however, is not all educators are role models.
I am living proof of the power that role models in education can have on students. I grew up in a single-parent household, and there were four children living in the home. My younger siblings were out of control, so my mother ignored me since I was the “good kid.” Being the “good kid” is not always a good thing because loneliness is painful. Looking back, I realize that I was on a dangerous path because I wandered around aimlessly on a daily basis. I did not have a plan for my future, and it was all too evident that nobody at home was encouraging a plan for my future either.
My English teacher was an incredible role model and inspiration for me, and she has forever changed my life. She was different from most educators for a variety of reasons. The first thing I noticed was that she cared. She cared a lot about her students and her content, and every day she made learning fun. She pushed me harder than any teacher has ever pushed me, and aside from one other college professor, I can honestly say that she challenged me more than any educator ever did.
She did what every educator should do because she set the bar for achievement high. Too often, teachers accept basic levels of work without pushing their students to “dive deep,” but “diving deep” was a daily practice in her classroom. She pushed us to discover a more complex, analytical, and critical response to the question that she had just asked. Surface-level, shallow responses were not accepted.
This teacher not only had high expectations for the quality of work that we turned in, but she also had high expectations for the quality of behavior we exhibited in her classroom. I loved being in her classroom because I knew that she valued me as much as I valued her.
She was a great listener. She listened to my complaints and frustrations with my home life, and she always encouraged me. This incredible woman may not realize it, but she planted the seed for my becoming an English teacher. This seed is representative of her belief in me as an individual and her belief in my intellectual potential.
The seed she planted within me six years ago has prospered. I graduated from college a week ago with a B.A. in English and a license to teach grades 7-12. Additionally, I have secured a job at a prestigious school teaching 8th and 9th grade English. My passion for education and my content area is much like the passion she exhibited. The expectations and goals that I will have for my students will also be much like hers. She may no longer be in the classroom, but her legacy lives on in the seed that she planted within me.
I wish to leave you with one thought: consider the impact that you have as an educator in the classroom. Do not judge your students or hold grudges against them because of their behavior; you never know what their life is like outside of school. Set your expectations high and raise your students to them.