Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Teachers aren't paid to care

The average teenager goes to school about 40 hours a week. We carry our books and backpacks from class to class and listen to teachers talk at us for about 6 to 7 hours a day. They teach us about history, pre-calculus, the periodic table, and the hidden meanings buried in works of literature. But how often do they actually ask us how we are doing or how our day, week, life is going? If your teachers are anything like mine, your answer is probably “never” or “rarely.”

I get that their job is to teach us, but isn’t there more to teaching than lecturing and assigning homework…

Kids and teenagers are also not just students. We are a many parts of a complicated whole. We have feelings, thoughts, ideas, hardships, families, and lives outside of our text books and homework.

When I was younger I remember watching movies where teachers would change kids’ lives by just paying attention and engaging with their students on a real level. I believed these movies were real, because most of my elementary teachers actually did seem to care. Then I got to high school and I realized that these movie teachers did not exist. In real life, high school teachers aren’t paid to care.

At least that is what I thought until I actually had one who did.

My school has many electives, but one of the best ones we to offer is called Interpersonal Relationships. For the first time in my whole school career I felt like I belonged. A lot of that had to do with the teacher, because, for once, we didn't just have to sit and listen, we got to speak our minds. We were able to express how difficult life was for us without judgment. We talked about human issues--From communication, to mental health, to reproduction—and about how these issues applied in our own lives.

Have you ever been in a classroom with a teacher that actually made you feel wanted and important and loved? Cause that is exactly what this class was like. My teacher actually wanted to know what it was like for us and respected what we had to say. What a concept! An adult who actually wants to learn from a teenager and shows them respect.

I think our school system has forgotten that learning is more than just a test score. We all need someone to look up to and someone to be there for us. If more schools had classes  like interpersonal relationships I think students would be more engaged in the process of learning and have more motivation to actually show up to class. Classes like this offer teachers the chance to see their students as real people, instead of a name on a clip board.  

I will never forget what I learned from that class. I think more teachers and students need to experience a real connection to each other-- A space where we can meet eye to eye and understand where everyone is coming from. Growing up and life aren’t easy, no matter what someone’s age, gender, race, etc. More people need a crash course on being in someone else's shoes.
Classes like this should be more wide spread. We all deserve the chance to learn in a safe and supportive environment. We are not just a statistic. We are real people with real issues. Issues that a text book or a test is going to help us solve. We need teachers who care. We need school systems that care.

We have a lot to say, isn’t it time that adults in our lives started listening.

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