I was not sure if I should write this blog due to the perception that I was the focal point of the topic. It took ten years to actually acknowledge how much of a role I have with students outside of educating them about history. However, it made it easier to write this post once I understood that I was and am not the topic. The focus is GLOW, being genuine, and understanding how important we ALL are as educators. With the recent events in South Carolina, and learning about what the young girl was going through at home, I can only wonder how many students have a teacher they can talk to while at school? There are some teachers that may need to read what I have experienced the past couple years. While other teachers will relate and reminisce on their experiences.
Hopefully this post touches the hearts of the ones it was meant for.
I began to notice it around the third quarter of my first year even though it started well before then. I started having students come to me about situations outside of school. I've had some students tell me things they were going through, and it seemed like these stories were written for TV, but this was their lives. By the end of my first year I was called "dad" by a number of students. It phased me at first since I don't have any kids, but I grew used to it. I thought it was a fad and some kids were calling me dad because they were following their friends. I never saw myself as a parent although I made jokes about having a hundred some odd kids every school year. Within this past first quarter I had a student (who I didn't teach) come back and tell me he took my words to heart and he's changed his mindset, and his actions for himself, his daughter, and his younger brother (who was shot most likely because of his actions). I've helped another student cope with not being able to father his children, and helped him take the first step to rebuilding his relationship with his dad. I've given legal advice, and helped keep a kid from going to jail for some YEARS (without talking to him directly), and I've helped other students handle home problems while bringing lunch and just talking. Some actually think I have the answer to every problem and they are surprised when I say, "WOW! We gotta figure this out together". One actually opened up and told me that I helped during a time they were suicidal. Most of these scenarios these students were enduring before the school year began. It took time to creating these relationships although I was unaware of my actions. I was just doing my job, and being who I am. It started with having students open up while writing and letting them eat lunch in my classroom. These kids studied me, and they valued my insight because they respected my character. These kids see me in a light that at times I don't see myself in. This light can have various meanings, but two of them are of admiration and of hope. They hold me accountable when they respond in a shocking way, or when they question me on a decision I've made out of curiosity. When they respond in these ways I ask myself am I being the best role model, the best teacher, and the best me I can be? Most times it's a yes and other times it's a no, but I'm honest with myself.
We as teachers have personal issues that we must endure and mask when we stand up in front of our classrooms, but students do the same thing. They may have witnessed a parent get beat, may not have eaten or wondering what they will eat later on, may have a parent who is hooked on drugs, they may have parents who are forcing them to sell drugs or maybe it is all the above. Whatever the case maybe education may not be their focus on a particular day because of events going on at home. For example, I had a student who was acting different one morning, I thought she was going back to her old ways. I could sense something was wrong when she abruptly walked out of class, and instead of yelling at her, I let her be. When I said something to her directly after class, she about broke down right in front of me. I told her to go to the back of the class and put her head down. Later on she explained to me a student unknowingly triggered her to cry, and she left class so that no one would see her in tears. She also shared with me what she experienced the night before. Normally I would have said something when she tried to leave, but I knew her well enough that I knew she did not need to be in the class at that moment. Educating today's youth requires establishing relationships. Students need to know that despite what they are going through you care for them and can put their needs before education. When she broke down in front of me and opened up, I officially felt like a parent. I am speechless when I think about how much these kids trust me.
Students want your GLOW. Whether you know it or not you have students watching and analyzing you on your worst and best days. They aspire to be you although they may not like you, or your profession, or the course you teach. IF you love your job and bring love into the classroom. IF you are consistent in showing love is unconditional while holding them accountable then you are not just affecting the children you teach, but you are touching lives outside your classroom. You will find students who are not your students being your students because of your GLOW. As a teacher your GLOW has saved someone's life!!! Whether they came back and told you is irrelevant. You have not only changed students' lives, but you have literally saved lives as well. You have either helped build a strong foundation or you have helped them make the correct decision.
I know this job is demanding, stressful at times, the paychecks should be better, and you may often question changing careers, but never forget your legacy will grow with every child you touch. Your legacy will touch not only this generation of youth, but their offspring and their offspring, and their offspring. Your legacy will live on forever because of the GLOW you give off today.
Educating is our job, but we wear many different hats. Be prepared at any moment to wear multiple hats, but regardless of what hat you put on never forget to GLOW.
Show every student you are Graceful, Loving, Optimistic, and use Wisdom when interacting with them.