May 20, 2009

end of year reflections

At my school the graduating students have a final project that is a reflective presentation about their experiences at the school. It is partly an exit interview, partly a presentation, partly a way for the students to gain perspective and closure, and partly a way for them to express themselves as individuals.

I sit here watching these students, who I have taught for the last two years, realizing that as much as I talk about wanting to know them as people, at some point I reverted back to the "teacher." These beautiful, young, inquisitive PEOPLE stood before me speaking to me about their hopes, their dreams, their silent torments. And I realized that I have no idea who they are. Oh, I know their student personas. "John" sits quietly at his table and doodles when he thinks I am not watching. "Amy" talks to her friends and rarely listens to me as I speak. "Sally" studies hard, is fun-loving, tells jokes but gets straightA's. "David" has not done a lick of work in two years, I'm not sure if the messages are getting in past his ears.

It's sad. Really. They are wonderful people, and we could have all of us gotten so much more out of our relationships if only I had taken the time to really learn this and remember it all year long. Time after time these people stood up and spoke about their experiences at theschool. And the academics were mentioned, sure. But the focus was on all the other "stuff" that happens here. They felt safe. They felt loved. They were part of a community. They were respected. Here they were allowed to grow and be their true selves.

It's time for me to reflect back to, and to gain perspective. In the last few months I have forgotten so much. I have forgotten to teach to their eyes. I have become enamored with "finishing" before we leave for the summer. The curriculum has become more important than their lives.

The truth is – they won't remember the plot of this last novel I am cramming down their throats. But they will remember that I loved them and cared about who they were as people.

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