Chapter 12 is entitled “Building Character and Trust”, but what jumps out to me is found on page 426 when Lemov is detailing a teacher-to-student conversation. Lemov writes, “In this conversation, you may change his perceptions of you or of school. You will assuredly (and without realizing it) change your perceptions of your work: Are you successful? Are you changing lives? Are you respected? Is it worth it? Should you just get your real estate license?” This made me stop–is it worth it??? Man, now that is a question that punches a teacher in the gut when it is January. For some in our group, this is the 3rd time this school year that you are starting over–new students, three different courses to prep and grade for, and crowded classrooms with students who are longing for Spring. You are teaching 9 week courses; you have taught roughly 150 students, and now term 3 brings that number up to 225. Why not look to the end of the school year? A teacher, on the block, with 9 week classes, will have had 300 students–300 students who will have caused joy, laughter, and pride, but who will have also caused frustration, hurt, anger, and worst of all–questioning your worth. So, why do we do it? Why do we put our own personal lives, our families on hold, for other people’s kids? The answer–because we have to. We have to show these students that we care, and that we will not give up on them. We have to show them how a responsible adult speaks, reacts, and shows compassion.
This past weekend, to avoid facing my own personal/professional issues, I went beyond our book and read more of Doug Lemov’s blog. He wrote a nice entry connecting Dr. MLK to student potential. He writes, “But maybe the thing that struck me most deeply this morning in reflecting on King’s life was a simple picture, which I saw for the first time this week. It’s of King as a child- at six. To look at the photo as an educator is to be transfixed in a distinctive way. He looks so much like the children we teach everyday: The sweet smile. The face of childhood gazing into the distance of the future. He could be in that picture, just about any child whom we teach- the greatness within him waiting to emerge. If you looked at the picture now and someone asked you who it was you would not likely know it was one of History’s great men–you would more likely think it was one of your next year’s second graders. It reminds me of the potential in the children we teach. Part of honoring King’s legacy is to honor not only the greatness of the man in his adult life but the potential represented in his childhood when he was challenged by his parents and his teachers, loved, pushed to strive for excellence. It all started, here, the picture reminds me, with love and belief and teaching.
The last few lines of Lemov’s post hit a home-run; we are not chasing that real estate license because we see the potential of our impact on students. We will continue to modify our classroom procedures and our delivery of content because we want to be our best; the young people of today need us…and we need them.
So…keep on, keepin’ on, great colleagues!