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As I continue to talk about what I find the PROFESSION of teaching requires–living in the discomfort–I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a former student that has led me to this current entry.
Some back story…

My evolution as a teacher continues to occur in which I honestly have to say has been shaped by many of my former students’ impacts on me and my thinking over the years. They have challenged me in ways that I never thought that they would or even could. One of those areas is being more patient with them and their development and/or perceived needs. I must be the first to admit that while I love teaching and learning, I have noticed that I have more patience with learners in the primary grades. My expectations of my adult students and what they brought with them to the learning space was constantly at odds with most of what they actively would show. Sometimes what I thought that they should or would know, as undergraduates, was not always the case. Sometimes the amount of effort or passion that I assumed them to have was not the case either.

Now as I say that, there were plenty of students who were amazing and demonstrated vast amounts of intelligence, creativity, dedication, motivation, and the like. As a teacher, we sometimes take those students for granted and expect them to grace our classrooms with all of their potential and abilities. But when those gifted students’ gifts don’t appear as I expect them to, I now realize that those situations were my greatest challenges. This disconnect was painful for me to realize and accept: Why can’t they _______? Why won’t they _________? Why haven’t they ______? These are questions that I found myself reflecting on and asking my mentors periodically. I kept thinking that my students could do this or that. I never saw them as having deficits, but instead I saw that as not reaching or maximizing their potentials. What I failed to realize in that line of thinking was that while they had the potential, I often didn’t scaffold to the degree in which they may have needed. This realization meant that I had to relearn the level of variance within them regarding things that I considered to be foundational to undergraduate students (i.e., writing and critical thinking).

Now back to the conversation with my student…

In talking with my former student, I was pleasantly reminded of the student’s ability to actualize success. What I mean by that is even though I sought and often demanded a great deal from my students, their respective paths to success are as infinite as their minds, the context they’re in, and the varied supportive mechanisms afforded to them. As a result, I am now more aware of this part of my teaching identity–the critical idealist. And my former student’s current successes and the fond memories that I have during our time in the course have become even more powerful for me. For this was a student who I felt challenged my teaching in ways that made it better. The student’s persistence, creativity, and thoughtfulness during class assignments and discussions still appear in what my student is currently achieving. While, I speak of my student with some attempt of maintaining anonymity, if that student is currently reading; I would like to say I’m very proud of you. And more importantly, thank you!

As I have found to be true within the field of education, many times our students can be our best teachers when we’re willing to listen…

Until next time.