The work of a teacher is never done. It really never is at rest. I could be on a trip with the family, walking around Disneyland with the kiddos, jumping on ride after ride, eating Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream treats, and then I’ll suddenly think, “Hey, Tomorrowland!!! I wonder what my students would say if I had them do a rhetorical piece about the future of our society and technology’s role in the creation of our values.”
My mother was a teacher. My father was a teacher. I spent many weekends helping my parents grade papers, decorate classrooms, clean said rooms, and buy supplies for students. I saw firsthand that as much as teachers want to say that their work is only relegated to their work place, in reality, it’s not.
I may not go to campus seven days a week, but I think about my current students. A lot. I think about students I had. A lot. As much as people like to hate on social media, I secretly love it. Following and becoming “friends” with many of my old students has connected me to them in ways I wasn’t able to in the classroom. Or, conversely, it has deepened already strong relationships that were formed in the academic setting.
Recently I was contemplating and praying on what God would have me do as a teacher. I love reading. I love writing. I love talking about literature and its’ impact on society with others. Hence, teaching freshmen and sophomores how to write a literary analysis, understand the nuances of Romantic Era poetry, and delve into what the great “American dream” is in relation to the American literary canon is not work–it’s fun. It lights me up. But what about the students? Am I truly teaching them life skills and not just grammar rules (although those are important too)?
When I think of true education, the image that first comes to mind is that of my favorite high school English teacher, Mr. McCullough. With his wiry hair, glasses, brown loafers and khaki pants, he was the epitome of what I wanted to be. Intelligent with a sly sense of humor. Not outlandish by any means, but full of wit and spunk. He didn’t look intimidating, very unassuming, but once you started speaking with him about literature, you KNEW he was well versed in all things book and writing related. Yes, he was brain-smart, but it was the honesty he possessed that impressed me the most. Mr. McCullough would tell our class that “we weren’t that special”, meaning that although we were getting a great high school education at a terrific institution, the real world required us to persevere, to work hard, and to not take anything for granted.
That is the kind of education I want to impart to my students. I want them to feel that when they leave the safe confines of high school, they will have the confidence to go into whatever field of study they want, live wherever they want, and attempt new and exciting ventures. I want them to know the honest truth: the real world can be unfair and challenging, but it can also be filled with joy and wholeness. It all depends on how one sees a situation and then acts in response. I want them to know that they can always count on me to be praying for them, and not just with school-related activities, but also when family members pass away, when new relationships are formed, when big life decisions need to be made.
The work of a teacher truly is never done. In fact, tomorrow night, the family and I are going to Neet, an awesome anime convention that one of my former English students helped start. I’ve seen this young man grow from a high school senior dreaming of making his mark in the music industry to a young man who HAS made his mark in the hip Honolulu artistic world. He is only one of many students I taught Shakespeare and rhetoric to who are doing wonderfully remarkable things out in the “real world.” Seeing him and former students like him persevere through trials and hardship, and come out happier than ever because they are pursuing their passions makes my heart happy.
And for that, I love my work.