Actually, tell your teacher thank you. Today and every day. Teachers do so, so much for students and get such little recognition.
For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I hit a small patch of post-high school education when I decided I couldn’t be a teacher. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I wasn’t sure I was strong enough. Most of the teachers I had in school seemed to be in a positive mindset each day, despite the stupidity of some students. The classrooms were always stocked with writing supplies, tissues, and other necessities. My teachers never complained.
Flash forward four years – I’m in graduate school and have decided to spend my non-student time being a teaching assistant. I don’t understand how my teachers managed.
First week of class and I was like, “Oh, yeah this is fine, I can totally do this.” Cut to the first major assignment and I’ve gotten to know the students and I love their personalities, but Oh, No. I have to give them a bad grade. Now, I don’t actually care about giving out bad grades if I feel the student has warranted it. However, I am a person who thrives on being liked. I want my students to like me. I’ve tried to model myself after the good TAs that I’ve had, and tried to avoid the habits of TAs I didn’t like. I grade quickly (one week, tops), I give thorough feedback, I invite them to my office to talk about whatever ails them. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that at least one or two students is going to think I’m coming after them personally.
Next, there’s the students with personal issues who need you to help them succeed. “Yessss!” This is what I wanted the whole time! And then comes the heartbreaking stories and tragedies that make you just want to hug the student and give them a cup of hot chocolate. I am a very empathetic person, and listening to these stories and having students break down in front of me isn’t easy. There’s nothing I can do to help them besides give them encouraging words and offer kindness, but sometimes I want to do more.
Remember that part above when I said I use my non-student time to be a TA? HA! There’s no non-student time, not really, and there’s no non-TA time either! Neither of my roles are linear where I can just ease out of one role and into the other! I am in both roles all the time. If I’m trying to study for my own classes, I also have to be available for my students who might need me for their classes! And they’re all procrastinators, so of course they wait until the day or hours before the assignment is due and then bombard my inbox with questions that I’ve definitely answered in class already. Does anyone listen to us?? And when I think I have free time, when I’ve caught up on work and school and grading – someone absolutely must get my help with their work! It doesn’t stop! This isn’t a 9 to 5, bub!
Finally, as a graduate student and first time teaching assistant, I am required to take a class to help me develop my pedagogy. I love this class. I love learning about how to teach! And one of the ways we learn is by developing a working syllabus for a class we might want to someday teach! This was a fun assignment, but it was also a LOT of work. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how much time goes into developing a syllabus, gathering readings, crafting assignments, and then organizing them ever-so-perfectly so that the semester flows well. No wonder most professors spend the entire first day of class going over the syllabus! Otherwise no one would take the time to look at or appreciate it!
I’ve been teaching for 8 weeks and already so much has happened. I just want to say thank you to the teachers I’ve had before that were always so patient, kind, and ready to listen to my ideas and make me feel valuable. Not to mention, I don’t have to pay for things to stock my classroom because my classroom changes everyday, so don’t even get me started on how grateful I am for those teachers who use their own hard-earned money (of which there is not a lot of) to make sure that my learning environment is conducive and successful for me.
Go thank your teachers. Buy them boxes of tissues, and EXPO markers, and pencils, or even just a small gift for the holidays. Let them know that you appreciate them, because teaching isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone.