I often ask myself who is working harder in my classroom, me or my students? As a first year teacher I struggled with letting my students do more work. It was a push for me to transfer the thinking and hard work from teacher focused to student focused. As I have gotten better at that, the question has switched to who is more motivated, me or the students. That is a question that still leans to me. I am invested in my class, my classes goals, and getting my students to where they need to be. Often it feels like they are not. They are working, they are not disruptive, but they are not pushing themselves as much as I am and it is really hard to deal with that. I hear teachers all the time use the line “I have my degree, I know this, this isn’t for me, it’s for you.” As much as we feel that inside, how is that going to motivate are students more? It’s also not really true. We don’t need to learn the material, but we want our students to be successful. We share a part of our student’s successes and their failures.
We are also different than our students in many ways. When I go home I think about my classes and my students. I plan, I grade, and I improve lessons. On weekends I talk about my classes over brunch and how my students are doing. Before I go to sleep I lie in bed thinking about where we are falling short and what more we can do. My main priority is my students and their success. Yes a lot of that is because I do not have a family at home, it’s just me and my cat and he doesn’t have that many needs right now, but the point is my classroom is my number one priority. For my students, it’s not. When they go home, their lives are very different than mine. Many of them have many more responsibilities than I do right now. They have kids or siblings they watch, jobs to attend, meals to make, houses to take care of and worries that are much greater than I do. Of course their focus is not necessarily quadratic equations or narrative essays. When they are at school it can be a break from the stress they face in their lives or it can add to it.
What we have to do as teachers is find during those 40 to 50 minutes to merge our interests. To get our students on board with our goals but understand their situations. We do not lower are expectations, we work with your students. Don’t get me wrong, it is still frustrating when I have huge plans and we don’t exactly reach them but we have to remember the progress we do make and understand that all of our students have lives beyond our classroom.