Teachers Answer 5 Questions We Don't Ask Them Enough

Teachers Answer 5 Questions We Don't Ask Them Enough

The amount of selflessness a teacher possesses is inspiring.

One of the best parts of being a writer for a website like Odyssey is having the wonderful opportunity to connect with my community and hear stories from various perspectives. For me, that most interesting perspective was that of a teacher. It's a tough job that some of the strongest and smartest people I know have, but I really wanted to understand, "What comes with being a teacher?"

I asked two of my teachers what it meant to be an educator, and their responses has been an inspiring, eye-opening experience. The stories they told are amazing, and I am honored to be able to share them.

Please note that all names were changed to protect identities. All text in brackets has been added for grammar or privacy purposes.

1. When the school year first starts, how do you feel about your new students?

Ms. Jane:

"At the beginning of a new school year, I am always excited to meet my new students. From the very beginning, I try to connect with each and every student. I explain that we will be together for 180 days this year, and it will be the best 180 years of the year (always add some humor).”

Ms. Anne:

"For the majority of teachers, the start of the school year is very awkward. Your students have yet to figure you out and your personality. Your jokes can't really come out until after you complete all of the 'start of the year stuff,' too. It's a weird time of figuring one another out. On the hand, the beginning of a new year is so exciting because it holds so much potential to make new connections with kids and new memories."

2. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment right now? What is the best part about being a teacher?

Ms. Jane:

“My greatest accomplishments as a teacher are the connections I've made with so many students. Connecting with a student that I taught in tenth grade was major. This student had very little support at home. Her mother and sisters did not graduate from high school, so I took this student under my wings to break that cycle. I spoke to her regularly her junior year, pushing her to attend summer school to make up classes she had failed. At the beginning of her senior year, I spoke with her counselor, making her aware of the circumstances at home. Together, we became a tag team duo to push this student toward her high school diploma. She made it! The three of us cried together at graduation. This is why I do what I do!

“Many look at me as a ‘mother’ figure. This has allowed them to share personal trials and accomplishments with me. The joy of helping students with obstacles or self-doubt is rewarding. To watch a student grow and reach their goals is the best part of being a teacher.”

Ms. Anne:

“My greatest accomplishment as a teacher is surviving. Just kidding. In all seriousness, I would say it's helping students find their way in high school. High school is a tough and stressful time. Often students are afraid to take risks or explore their creativity because they fear not doing well or looking dumb. When we can create a relaxed and safe classroom, students are willing to grow. I feel honored that students say how comfortable they feel in my classroom and that they've learned a lot. They may not have always loved what we were learning, but they enjoyed the time they had with me as their teacher.

“Hands down, the best part about being a teacher is getting to work with kids. They can drive me crazy, but I fiercely love them. I laugh so much working at my job and it is so fulfilling. Kids surprise me every day with their strength, silliness, and stories. I'm so thankful that I get to be a part of their journey and watch them grow."

3. When you first became a teacher, what did you hope to do as a role model? What was your goal?

Ms. Jane:

“When I first became a teacher, I'm not sure that I looked at myself as a role model. Later, my goal became to inspire all students to have a little fun while learning."

Ms. Anne:

“When I was in high school, I was never the 'smart kid.' I really struggled with school, and all my teachers knew it. I have always been a hard worker, but it can be hard when no one acknowledges your merits or dedication. By the time I got to twelfth grade, my British Literature teacher was the first teacher that I ever had that called me a 'good writer.' That moment has always stuck out to me that it took so long in my primary schooling to be acknowledged and recognized for my hard work. It was just a simple thing he did for me, but it has always meant a lot.

"As a teacher, my goal has been and always will be to push my students to become the best writers and readers they can be but to make sure that they know that every step of the way that they can do this and that they have someone in their corner that believes in them.”

4. What is your favorite memory? Why do you love that memory so much?

Ms. Jane:

“My all-time favorite memory is returning rubrics after a Socratic Seminar. One student, John, jumped up and screamed because he did not like his grade. Within minutes, the bell rang. He exited the classroom and slammed the door. I walked behind him and told him to return and open the door, that this was not his room, nor was I his mother. He was mad for days, yet I called on him to engage him in classroom discussions. In one particular assignment, he shared his journal writing. As with all the students, I complimented him on it, for he had followed directions for the writing process. The next class period, students were struggling to understand. I shared his paragraph as an example. He learned that I shared his as an example and told me that I could share it with my students next year too.

"John emailed during Christmas Break to tell me that he was transferring to a private school. In that email, he mentioned that I was his ‘all-time favorite’ teacher. He said he had never had a teacher that cared as much as I did, and that he will never forget me. He returned to [the school] for his senior year. He selected me to wear his football button for senior night, he mentioned me as his most inspirational teacher for basketball senior night and when he signed his college athletic scholarship, he said that out of all his teachers throughout school, I was the one that pushed him to do better.

“I love this memory because it reminds me to not to be afraid to discipline students. This shows that you care.”

Ms. Anne:

“Working with people is never easy, especially teenagers. Teaching is hard. People will never understand how time-consuming it is and how much energy it requires to write lesson plans, grade, teach, encourage students, encourage parents and go to endless meetings. If you do not love this job and love working with kids, it is very challenging to keep your spirits up. You'll certainly have more critics than fans.

“For me though, the greatest gift that I can give to my students is to pour my love into my craft and into building a classroom family setting and expecting nothing in return. Some of my favorite memories revolve around students acknowledging that they feel appreciated and cared for in my class. The memory that sticks out the most is probably the first time a student was overjoyed from receiving my praise. I was student teaching with seventh graders, and I was having a writing conference with a young gentleman. I coached him with his writing, and he made revisions after revisions to his paper. When he was finally done, I had told him he took a really great job, and that he should be proud of himself. This young boy wasn't just happy, he was beaming. He had told me that no one had ever told him that he had done good work in school before. He then ran off with the biggest smile on his face.

“I carry that moment with me because I was shocked that his former teachers had let him go this long without knowing his worth. I have 150 kids that come through my classroom every day. I never want a student to feel that they are unseen. We must always choose kindness. It doesn't take much for someone to feel appreciated and loved. It can be something as simple as a smile and a hello.”

5. When the year ends, what do you feel is the worst part about leaving your students each year? Do you wish you could stay with them longer?

Ms. Jane:

"At the end of the year, the worst part is saying goodbye. I do wish that I could stay with them a bit longer, however, the goal is for them to progress."

Ms. Anne:

“I cry every day on the last day of school. It's rewarding to see the end of a school year come to a close, but saying goodbye to the people that have filled your heart for the past year is hard. It's kind of like a relationship break-up. You know it's coming and that it's time to move on, even though you don't want them to go, but you'll always be thankful for the memories. My students challenge me and have taught me so many things about teaching and about life. I'm thankful for the opportunity to grow with them, and I'm especially thankful for when they come back to visit, often with a side tackle hug. There's almost a fear that your next group of kids will never be as good as the ones you currently have. You'll never love a group of kids as much as these, but you do, and the circle of teaching pushes on.”

Teachers deserve more credit than they're given because it takes a strong person to empower others. Being able to read about these experiences showed me that a teacher is someone who not only teaches academics to students but also guides them to be better people, and that kind of selflessness is amazing.

I want to thank my two teachers who agreed to be interviewed. I appreciate everything you do to educate the youth of the world.

Cover Image Credit: Michal Jarmoluk

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything

I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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I Want To Be Hopeful About The Weinstein Trial, But I Can’t Help Being Cynical

What if this is "just another rape trial"?


Please read my subheadline again.

Did you read it? Actually, read it? To the point where your internal narrator voice spoke every word?

It kills me to write a phrase like "just another rape trial".

It feels wrong because it is wrong.

So is the way our society perceives sexual violence.

I'm a member of the #MeToo movement and a performance student looking for ways I can continue to not only process my own experiences but help explore to the complex issue of sexual assault awareness. I want to be hopeful that the media involvement, the activism and the sheer size of the dialogue will make a difference.

Considering Harvey Weinstein's actions, in particular, I hope he serves the full life sentence the new charges against him justify.

But after examples like the Brock Turner case, it feels all too easy to lose hope.

I find myself full of questions, and none of them good.

What if #MeToo somehow provides a means to argue that the trial is unfair? What if the fact that Weinstein is rich and famous just means he can get off the hook, despite the fact that the over 80 allegations against him appear damning?

What will it mean if he faces heavily reduced consequences for his reprehensible actions?

And before you start to say, "there's NO WAY that could happen..."

May I remind you what many Democrats were saying a year and a half ago? And may I remind you who is sitting in the White House today (or how many sexual misconduct allegations are currently against him)?

Saying something can't happen doesn't mean it can't happen. It just means we don't want to think about it happening.

We can and should stay hopeful. We can and should stay strong.

We also should be wary of tricks lawyers have up their sleeves and the things money can do in the American legal system. We should be concerned with #MeToo turning into a fad instead of a continuous opportunity to speak up and speak out.

We have to think about Weinstein, despite the new indictment and ongoing debate for sexual assault awareness, not facing the consequences of his actions fully or at all, even if we don't want to.

Because then we have to think about what to do next.

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