Years in Education: 4-6
First in Family to Graduate From College
High School English Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: When I was a student, I was always too much. I asked too many questions, I was too loud, I was too anxious to sit still. I was also always too bored to care about what we were learning. It seemed to me that school took something I had always loved (reading and writing) and turned it into something I loathed.
I wasn't stupid, but I failed quite a few classes in 9th and 10th grades. I even failed my 9th grade English class, which is pretty ironic considering I taught freshman English for the first four years of my career.
If someone had told me that I would become a high school English teacher I would have laughed and laughed and laughed, but that's what makes it so incredible. Anything can happen.
I want to be the kind of teacher that takes something students love and makes it even better, or something students can't stand and show them how amazingly-ridiculously-mind-blowingly-life-changingly beautiful language is. Okay so I made up the word changingly. But that's because language is awesome.
My students know that I am there for them, no matter what. Without judgment. I tell them I am a real model more than a role model, and that we're all imperfect and in it together.
Every single one of us, teachers and students included, learns best when we are challenged, and we grow the most when we are outside of our comfort zones. We all learn from each other and need each other. We cannot do any of this alone.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: It matters so much that teachers and students have things in common.
As a student who never fit the mold, I was bored and rebellious in school. I ended up attending an alternative high school and it changed my life. I am now teaching in the same district where I once sat at the end of my first semester of 10th grade and told my mom I was over it. I was dropping out. I hated it.
I recently had a conversation with one of my sophomores who was refusing to work and told me he was just "done with school." I was able to say to him, "I have been where you are and felt what you are feeling right now. I want you to know I understand. How can I help? What do you need?" Is that going to change his entire life? Probably not, but it's a good start.
I also believe that we have more commonalities than differences, and that when we focus on the love that we all need and share, the lessons flow freely. Building relationships based on understanding and love is the single most important factor for effective teaching and learning.
Rachel is a 2017 Washington State Teacher Leader. Follow her on Twitter @wildnfreewiley.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.