This post is in no way intended to toot my own horn, that is, boast about what an awesome teacher I am (we’ll save that for later). But seriously, I know how it might come off: kind of like when I called my smartest kid a “genio” (genius) today, and he shook his head unconvincingly and said, “nah… nahhh.” He is also the same kid who shouts out his test grades for everyone to hear, and slams his pencil down when he completes his assignments ten minutes before everyone else.
In any case, I have been in my fair share of classroom settings, and one point I want to make about the difference between a teacher and a great teacher is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm could also be called “interest.” When a teacher takes a vested interest in her students, she is telling the kids that they matter. Earlier in the week I taught with one girl who did everything she was supposed to do. She wrote the lesson on the board, asked for participation from most people, but something was clearly lacking. Her intonation stayed constant the entire class. She didn’t stop to make sure that anyone actually understood what she was imparting. She had a casual attitude that could almost be interpreted as sloppy. This is all fine and from what I would imagine, common in everyone at times. But when I think about the way I feel about teaching–that is, when I step in front of a group of kids endowed with the responsibility to OBLIGATE them to understand–I realize that I will never be that type of teacher. Maybe it is at my own expense. Maybe I’m being stupid and unrealistic to make myself feel responsible for the grades that each one of my students gets. But even so, the high that comes with each sign of understanding, of growth in any one of my students is a direct result of my attitude as a teacher. The lows that ensue after a difficult day or after an astonishing number of kids fail my test are real and they are buzz-kills. But I think I would rather live my life replete with spikes and valleys than without a care at all.