Over the twenty-one years I’ve been teaching, there are very few students I’ve genuinely disliked. There are certain qualities or questions or tones of voice that hit my “snark right back” button, but I actually like most of my students. I enjoy the kids who are smartasses as long as they aren’t malicious with it; I love the kids who seem to be in la-la-land, but pay attention to the discussion and listen to the reading so they can answer the question in rock star fashion. I adore the kids who know they have low skill levels, but, dammit, they are going to work their brains off to get better. From the beginning, way back when I taught the dreaded Publications classes, I quickly learned that bitchy girls get things done–that doesn’t mean they are snotty to everyone all the time, but they don’t suffer fools (even teacher fools) lightly.
I’m lucky that I’ve lived and taught in the same community for almost twenty years. This means I get to run into former students at any time and in any place. Usually, I remember that they were a student and what kind of a student they were (but, I don’t always remember names). I get to see kids that cheated on ten point quizzes, or kids who failed to turn in any completed work, or kids who hated English vocally every day as grown-ups. They are working, taking care of children, dating or married, and making sure that they take care of their business. I have such respect for those kids. They often had multiple strikes heading into the work force (functional versus full literacy, a wobbly work ethic, a pathological urge to make the wrong choice) as fully functional human beings. It reminds me that every student I teach has the potential to be “okay.”
I don’t want to touch just one student’s life–I want to make a positive difference for the majority of my students. I probably won’t ever see the results of my work, not like a plumber or seamstress or woodworker will. Still, I seed the wind with life lessons from literature, analysis of what’s between the written or spoken words, improved communication skills, and I’m hopefully creating a whirlwind of critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. I just want my students to leave my classes a little better off than how they started them.
That said, I’m not the easiest teacher to deal with. I get snappy and short-tempered more often as spring blows in. I may engage in very few power struggles, but certain questions or tones of voice get disproportionate lectures. I’m not as funny as I think I am. My ADD and dyslexia come out to play far too often (although I connect it back to the official track 99% of the time). I actually answer every questions (often to the chagrin of my students). I am sarcastic. I sometimes straight-up lie about really obvious things to see if they are paying attention (Geiko cavemen, cats from Mexico, Australian wild cat hunts, the Russian moon base, flying bears, teachers who practice performance art on the weekends…).
But I care.
I care about how much I don’t know about any kid and his or her home life. I care about how many activities they are or aren’t involved in and why. I care about whether or not they have a part-time job and just how part-time it actually is. I care about whether or not they graduate from high school (and once a year at least I might be the only one who has said that to them). I care about them becoming better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers and I try to tell them when they’ve improved. I care about the kids who hate me, the kids who like me, and the kids who are too quiet just the same. I want them all to live lives with more joy than pain and to seek out success based on their own definitions of it.
So, no, I don’t hate you.
I might not always love the way you behave and you may just straight up hate me.
But I really, really don’t hate you.