Yesterday I received this Facebook message from one of my former high school students.
“I was cleaning through my ‘Memory Box’ and found an old etching piece from your art class in 9th grade (self portrait- whew that was a long time ago)! You most likely don’t remember it was on fabric soaked in tealeaves. It is very special to me- it reminds me of the time when I was not confident in myself, and was always so scared to finish my projects and be critiqued. You pushed me to finish this, among many other things, which was something I think I desperately needed at the time! So thank you, you have always been one of my favorite teachers for that!”
I remember this beautiful print and I remember this kind hearted young man well. He was the sort of student that pulled at your heartstrings. He was quiet, sweet in a way that was not always conducive to high school social culture. He had a vulnerability that exposed his obvious state of self-doubt that is all too common in this age group. Every high school student lives in this state at times throughout their stay but many have learned to conceal there questioning and concerns under an array of calculated camo. It does not surprise me in the least that he would have a memory box. I feel so touched that I had a positive influence in a time where he needed a little boost.
This type of connection is not one I have found teaching at the community college. Most of my students are my age or older, they have been out in the work force and they are hungry for information. The do not need me for any support, they just want information and many times they just require the credits for a degree to move them further ahead in their careers. I still build wonderful relationships with them but our relationships are based upon a transfer of knowledge. In some ways it is an easier type of instruction, you prepare, you lecture, you demo; they listen, they absorb and they create. It is not that you use fewer educational tactics but your recipients are much more willing across the board.
This is not the process of a high school teacher. Your students may look like adults but they are still children. In the absence of their parents they require your care and understanding to assist them in their academic pursuits. A high school teacher has to go through a maze of emotions and leap through jungle gym of tactics to reach their students. Most of your young students care more about their social lives, clothes, and relationships than your subject that you are sharing with them; at least they want you to believe that. I found that high school students are the most passionate group in our society. They are competitive and care deeply about the world around them and they are excited and scared for what the future holds. I feel so fortunate to have had that experience at a wonderful school, with a supportive administration, fantastic faculty and a truly wonderful group of students. It warms my heart to know that my students think of me as fondly as I do them. I am proud of the information and techniques I have been able to pass on to my students but what truly pulls at my heartstrings is the support I was able to provide. Sometimes it is just a simple deep belief in someone that will push him or her forward, truly believing they can achieve any goal. I was so happy to hear that Claire’s school is embracing this technique of connecting with your students to build a healthy caring community, as it should be.