School Days: Impact Moments

School Days: Impact Moments

I was hesitant about writing this blog, because I am still processing my feelings after finding it difficult to come up with a response to my professor’s question: Tell us about one of your most memorable or most productive class activities. It could be from your time as a student or as a teacher. What did you do? What made it memorable?

I recently returned to school preparing for my next act, to strengthen my competencies as a professional educator. Although I have taught college level courses before, my background is in business, not education. I wanted to ensure that when I returned to the classroom I am fully prepared to maximize learning opportunities for all my students. I desire to approach teaching and learning more culturally responsive, engaging and advocating, and supporting all my students and their unique learning needs. Servant leadership is on my mind and in my heart.

Back to the question. My response remains elusive. After reading some of my peers’ reactions, I found them to be passionate and animated. Many shared fun memories of innovative classroom activities, engaged teachers, giving speeches and overcoming fear, making songs out of excerpts from their favorite literature, etc. I read all the responses and not one of my classmates mentioned boredom.

I sat on the question a little longer. I went to bed on it. Still– nothing similar came to mind to match those experiences of my peers. I did awaken this morning with something, however, it is quite different from the eager revelations I witnessed in the class replies. I am sure I encountered good teachers, I must have some memorable moments?

What I do remember pales in contrast to the in-class- experiences of my colleagues. I remember being slapped in the face by one of my elementary school teachers who smoked in class; he stood in my face with a cigarette (smoking was allowed in school then). He smelled like smoke, and his ash tray was always full of cigarette butts. I was fed up and told him to stay out of my face. He reeked. We got into a shouting match and he slapped me.

In my high school Algebra class, I remember going to the board and standing there unable to solve an equation; the teacher smirked and some of the students laughed at me. Embarrassed, I didn’t put any effort into that class and barely passed. I repeated college Algebra three times, passing on the last go round. (Hey I didn’t give up!)

I remember being called into the principal’s office in high-school because I led a sort of protest. Many girls like me weren’t chosen for the Pom-Pom squad. Together with a group of girls, I advocated to start a drill team. We were denied at first, but persisted. The administration relented.

Considering my professor’s question today, I reflected. Was it me? Was I just not a good student back then? Why can’t I conjure up any memorable classroom moments.

I am in my sixties, and working on my fourth degree. I love school. I love the grind of it, researching and writing papers, staying up late at night in deep thought about assignments, thinking and reaching, stretching my brain, collaborating with classmates, getting good grades… academic pursuit has become a part of who I am.

Was this potential present in elementary– in high school? I don’t recall anyone recognizing any particular bent in me.

I found a photo of me, my nose glued to a book, with the classic books stacked next to me on the library table.

I kept journal after journal of poems and musings. I don’t recall any of my teachers encouraging me to go to college.

In fact, I didn’t think college was an option.

 I had only seen my mom work, so I decided after I graduated high school I would get a job. We didn’t have the money for me to go to college. I don’t recall anyone teaching me about alternative funding sources. I just don’t remember…

The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. -Virginia Woolf

The more I think, it is becoming clearer to me about the teachers I do recall, I am left feeling like I was just there, and they were just there to do their job. The longer I stay in the moment, it feels like they had no expectations of me. Looking back, the images of teachers appear to be perfunctory. Patronizing is what I am remembering.

I mean no slight towards the good ones, I just don’t remember anyone who stood out to me, who recognized any particular bent I may have had. Any who pushed me. Anyone who guided me. Not even a counselor. The latter I recall was present to keep us kids of a certain persuasion in line and out of trouble.

I am going through some type of psychoanalysis in this post. I can’t help but think, what if it had been different?

I know one thing for sure, my students will find encouragement from me, I will inspire them to think, I will push them to step out of their comfort zone and provide them with tools to survive and thrive. I will check myself when I start to make judgments about them. I will show them the way to their confidence.

I will see them and I will hear them.

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