Not long after I began teaching Language Arts at the high school level in a Chicago suburb, I underwent very serious surgery that was unexpected. When I returned to the classroom, I was still healing and would be for many months to come. I asked several teachers in my department for any materials they were willing to share with me.
Although I knew I would do my best for my students each and every day, I was under no delusions that I was at my best. Teaching is not easy.
Those teachers and others gave me more than I ever expected. They also gave me personal notes on what they thought I should try along with suggestions on how to do it. I learned from them as they supported me. We talked whenever we could – bursts of advice and suggestions. It was an amazing experience for me. This went on for the entire school year.
I cannot tell you how thankful I was and am to those teachers and the others who simply got me through a major personal crisis.
Needless to say, I learned that life and learning are cooperative and not competitive.
Because I realized that I was ever beholden to them for what they did for me, I strove to be my best to them and for them. For years my mind was filled with the message, “Don’t screw it up.” I was not about to let what I learned from them be wasted. Friendships and trusts developed.
None of this should be surprising to most people.
But, there is something more, much more, about what actually happened.
As teachers, they all wanted the children in my classes to learn. Yes, they behaved in the best interests of children who were not under their direct care. Big children – teenagers. These children have needs just as kindergarteners do. Sometimes, even bigger needs.
I have often felt that the students I had that year received better teaching than I had ever been capable of before my surgery.
Parents don’t always know what goes on on the other side of the desk. Students don’t always know this either.
How could I not want to teach, learn, relearn, and do my best working with teachers such as those?
By the way, a few of those teachers were pains in the neck about lots of things over the years. There were even a few (?) I argued with. So what. They were teachers, not gods. Their list of imperfections is nearly as long as my own list of imperfections. My students and their parents also had imperfections galore. As for imperfections in administrators… So what. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
As a retired public school teacher who never wore rose colored glasses, I clearly see what kept me teaching; and this situation is merely one that stands out in my mind.
Teaching is a career, not just a job.
- Ken Previti
AND – I’m still learning. Here I am at the Network for Public Education National Conference in Austin at the University of Texas in March of 2014 supporting public education for all.