At my school each department is a little different. I can honestly say that our English department, for the most part, has a group of teachers who take this mentoring seriously. We try to teach the whole person instead of just the English student. If you ask us what we teach, we would answer, "We teach kids." Some other departments seem to be all about the subject. If you ask them what they teach, they'd answer, "I teach _______ (insert subject)." I want to say that I don't judge that, but I do kind of judge it. If someone gets into teaching because of a love of math or science or history, that's probably not enough. If that someone doesn't care about their students as people, that's a shame. We have such a great opportunity to impact lives that when we choose not to do so on a quasi-personal level, we're only half of what we could be.
I teach with a woman who is early to mid-thirties with a wonderful family who also serves as a mother figure to literally a hundred students at my school. The kids flock to her because she genuinely cares about them. In fact, sometimes she may be the only person in their lives who truly does. Her classes run like a work of art. Her students read interesting stories, they discuss the stories, and they discuss their lives because good literature makes people turn inward. They write beautifully, scoring higher on mandated state tests than anyone else, but the focus isn't on the tests. The focus is on the student. This teacher, lets call her Bethany, has made her classroom a safe place for students to learn about themselves, to grow into the person they can and should be. When I see people criticize teachers I think of her and I get pissed because she is doing more good for people than anyone I know.
I see other teachers who punch a clock. They check in when they're supposed to and they leave when the bell rings. There isn't much thought of students or anything school related during off hours. They are actually putting in their contracted time which is what many workers do. But teachers should do more because we can make such a difference. Because we have the opportunity to impact lives. We get to work with kids and help them become all that they can become. If teachers are just punching the clock and teaching the subjects with no thought to who we're teaching, it's just a squandered opportunity.
So that was kind of a ramble. I do that sometimes and with this blog I promised myself I'd never do a rewrite. As the father of an almost-three year old I don't have much extra time to spend on writing this blog so it has to be a stream of consciousness type of thing. There you go.
Death Becomes Me by Matthew Dicks
Matthew Dicks wrote one of my favorite books of last year, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, and he's a teacher on the East Coast. His book is wonderful and about a dozen of my students have bought it or read it in the past couple months. They're all big fans too.
This essay is just awesome. It tells the story of Matthew as a 12 year old getting stung by a yellow jacket and having an allergic reaction and then as a 17 year old driving and getting into a head-on collision. He died both times but EMT's brought him back to life.
Essay: 10 of 10
This is just tremendous writing and a great story.
Teachability: 10 of 10
There is so much in here that will hook students. The two times he was actually dead and brought back to life? Dramatic. The ages he was when it happened? Same as my students. The fact that his parents weren't the most caring or strict? Relateable. His working at McDonald's the night of his accident? Half of my students work fast food. The epiphany after the second time he dies? The same epiphany I want all of my students to have without having to die twice. Excellent essay.