I felt pretty sad today. Lesson planning does that to me. But then I received this e-mail from a student I once taught. I am sure that teachers receive these e-mails all the time. It just came at the right moment… And it mentioned things that I actually discussed quite a bit lately. Here it is..
Hi, I am not sure if you remember me but I hope you do. I was recently given a project for my leadership class and it required me to write about one of the most influential people in my life. Yes. I chose to write about you, my fifth grade teacher, because you were the one that gave me discipline and motivation to work hard and go after my dreams. To this day, I consider you to be the best teacher I have ever had. I had to tell you this.
I must note that the e-mail had no spelling mistakes, and the child writing it, got in a good school. I am one very proud mama. Yes. I mean, teacher. Proud teacher. I remember this girl, she had big curious eyes, dark hair, hard-working. I do not remember the parents. They were not the ones fighting for whatever unjustice was done to their kid today.. I guess they just taught her to work hard. I guess I am just not thinking right today because it seems to me that this is the best parental involvement one could ever have! Just teach your kids to do work, supervise them, and make sure that they follow directions.
It has been a pretty rough year, and I had to question myself daily not knowing if the things I do are the right things to do. I sometimes feel like I am in the woods, and I am looking for some light to show me where things are. This light has always been shed by my former students who would come back and confirm that the year was worthwhile, that they learned something. My favorite thing was to know that they got in good schools, received good grades, won a leadership position, etc. I want achievement from my kids. I want all of that, and I tell them that if it did not come yesterday, it will come tomorrow. They will experience success tomorrow if they continue to search, question, read, work.. I tell my students from day one that I am not the one striving for popularity. Honestly, I have as many people who hate me, as I have the ones who love me. A teacher who has a reputation of being very cool and popular, worries me.. Kids call all kinds of things cool. A teacher is like a parent, tough and fair, teaching that life requires hard work and dedication. Life is not easy to do, and a teacher is not a pal.
The move to a new school was a good thing for me. It is dangerous to become too comfortable; it stops growth and promotes complacency. I began to question my call for discipline and motivation, which is more like enforced motivation. I would tell the kids to excite themselves with the question for a day and see where it leads them. I did not use these particular words, but this was the message. I call it enforced motivation.
My favorite this year is “If you are not curious about ALL OF THIS, what is the point?” It is a very ambiguous message for 10 year olds, but some are getting it. When you speak to kids like they are scientists and adult thinkers, they become scientists and adult thinkers.
Children are not born with discipline, and they are not born motivated. They will not be naturally motivated to read Robinson Crusoe. Someone has to make them do it, and I am a little concerned that most often this someone is a teacher. I think that it should be a parent.
I am a little sad to see that people begin to think of discipline as something contradictory to freedom. I personally believe that freedom is not possible without the discipline. Anarchy, on the other hand, can do without it.
The testing is upon us, and of all the days, of ALL days this year, today was the day I needed this e-mail.