This week we managed to have our first stargaze, so it was a great week. It never got fully clear; clouds were present the entire time. But we got to see my primary target for the evening, Saturn and its rings, through the telescope. YES!
But something happened today (Friday) that gives everything an entirely different perspective. For the first time in my teaching career a student had a medical emergency requiring medical services and EMTs. The details are immaterial to this discussion and the student is okay. What I can say is that it brought anew the realization that, as teachers, we seldom have a clue about the things that our students are experiencing in their lives outside of class. As a result we assume, when they enter our classroom, that they are ready to fully attend to the lesson and dig in to the wonderful material we have to present. I'm not saying that we shouldn't. We need to do that because that is our job and we need to do it the very best that we can. But sometimes we need to be reminded that our students are real people with real issues to deal with and problems that resist the compartmentalization we are so accustomed to doing to them.
It also made me more appreciative of what I have: my health, family, a rewarding career. It reminded me of the frailty of life. Although today's incident was not life threatening, let's just say it got my adrenaline pumping. By the end of that class period, when I sat down, my legs started shaking and turned rubbery. But this too shall pass.
I have always tried to let my students know that I am on their side. That I can and am willing to advocate for them, to encourage them and to help them. That I am a fan. I cheer for them to succeed, wish for them the very best. I cannot be all things at all times to them, but in my experience, knowing that there is someone in your corner can make a difference.
I teach because I like the kids. I enjoy the interaction, the banter, the mutual respect that we build. I like high school students because they are the closest of any to being grown adults. They haven't arrived but are closer than they have ever been.
At times like this, with the perspective it brings, seeing the big picture allows us to understand the foundation that under girds what we do every day. For me and most teachers I know, it is not just for a paycheck. It is to make a difference in each of my students.