Saturday, February 25, 2012

Being a Teacher

I am a high school art teacher.   Currently only part time, but I am hopeful that I will move into a full time position at the same school next year.  I have really enjoyed teaching this year.  I have really been able to develop friendships with my students, that I do not think would be possible in a traditional public school.

I work at a charter school.  We are really into developing the entire student at this school, mentally and emotionally.  We not only prepare them for college, but we allow them to take college courses in concert with their high school classes... which is really cool by the way!

This week, I have been extra grateful for my job and how my relationship with my students has developed.

At the beginning of the school year, I was one of 3 new teachers, on a staff of 8.  There were 2 students that really did not like me from the beginning.  They would not do what I asked or told them to do.

I made a breakthrough with one of them, when he was injured and I told him I would ask my mom (She's a nurse) about what he could do to heal faster.  A light must have gone off in his head... realizing that I was there to see him succeeded and grow.  At that moment this student decided he liked me.

The second student, would curse at me 'under his breath', he would get loud and very defensive.  I truly believe that he hated me!  This was really trying for me, because I want all of my students to like me.  A little ridiculous, but I am just being honest.  I started giving this student responsibility... hand out lunch cards, run this errand for me, explain this project to the class, etc.  I gave him more space.  I praised his art work more.  I made sure that I greeted him at the classroom door everyday with a smile on my face and a big hearty Hi, welcome to class, I am glad that you are here!

I do not remember exactly when his feelings towards me changed, but I am so glad that they did.  This student is great.  He is battling a lot in life, and I believe he is pushing past that.  And in doing so his attitude has changed.

If he sees me on our tiny campus, he is all smiles and always greets me, "Hi Miss Hargrave!"  This makes me very happy.  A new adventure has come from this, as he asked me at lunch yesterday, if he could be my TA.  He said it so politely, I could only say yes!  I confronted him later and explained that he would be my right hand man, that he would sometimes run errands for me, and if needed he would help out in the office.  His response, "That's ok!"

Wow!  How did we get here?  How did we get to this point where we can both speak to each other, without voices getting a bit higher?  I don't exactly know, but I am happy that we did.

My students are so amazing!  We have all developed a student/ teacher relationship that is welcoming.  They know they can tease me and ask me questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability.  I don't shut them down.  They need to ask questions, that is how they gain knowledge. And boy do they ask me questions!  In fact, yesterday as well, in my last class of the day, two students called me over.  I thought they were going to ask me a question regarding their project, but this is what they decided to ask me:

"Miss Hargrave? Are you from Compton?"
"New Orleans?"

Basically asking me if I was from places they thought Black people lived.  Ha ha.  They do not see very many ethnic types where they live.  It is nearly 100% a Hispanic community.  Many teachers might become incensed at these questions, take offense, but I saw that their quest was for understanding... and I  found it to be pretty funny.

I told them that I was born in San Diego and they both erupted with "Oh, we were way off!!  Ha ha"

I love this school.  It allows all of us to be people together.  Yes, I am teaching them and I hope that they are learning, but I believe that we are all learning how to be people... honest, reflective, creative, and kind humans, together.

I take incredible joy in seeing my students thinking, questioning, developing their minds.  Would I rather their questions be about art?  Sure, but I won't stop them from being curious about their world.  Even though they sometimes seem caught up in celebrities, music, technology and struggle with academic focus, I am confident that many will join the ranks in their communities and offer it something wonderful...  love, time, and talent.

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