Sunday, October 07, 2007

. . . stuck in the middle with you. . . .

I have never understood why so many teachers do not want to be a part of the community in which they teach.

I understand that this is difficult when one gets a teaching job many miles away from one's established home, but I know of many, many teachers who live right in the middle of their school's student base who deliberately withdraw from or refuse pointblank to be a part of their school's community; their phone numbers and addresses are top secret and given to nobody. Yes, there are crazy families out there who take advantage and want privileges and exceptions, who are inconsiderate and tactless and invasive. . . but I have always believed that those people are in the minority and that most people are decent, considerate, and genuinely concerned about their children's education. (I do wish the nice people would speak up and butt the rude people out of the way, but perhaps that's just me. . . .)

I know that I was never an 'inside the box' teacher; heck, I'm not an 'inside the box' person in any aspect of life, but it always seemed to me that being a part of the community or neighborhood would give a teacher insight into the students, their families, their likes and dislikes, and their involvement in things outside of school. Knowing these things would give the teacher ideas about how to handle the students at school. Knowing that the teacher is a human being who eats at Wendy's and shops at the neighborhood grocery stores and buys sliced ham at the local WalMart deli might give a kid more incentive to behave properly in class, too.

I live right smack in the middle of my old public school district, and I loved that. My students came trick-or-treating to my door, and I loved that. My students would ride their bicycles past my house and if they saw me in the yard, they'd come down the driveway to get some lemonade and talk. I loved that. We hired students to cut the grass and chop wood. We hire these same students now that they're adults, to roof our house and smooth the driveway. I still give them lemonade.

I loved living near enough to my students that they could visit me. I loved getting to know the mothers who dropped their kids off at my door. I loved inviting them inside and talking to them when they came back to pick their kids up and take them home.

Sometimes I would fix some supper for visiting kids.

I know that many teachers don't put themselves 'out there' for fear of vandalism and other abuses, but we never experienced anything like that. Oh, we got T.P.'d on occasion, but that's just funny.

When my kids were home, the house was always overflowing with their friends. Some weekends, there would be half a dozen kids sleeping all over the sofas and floor down in the family room. I bet I went through ten or twelve boxes of cereal every week. I lost count of the gallons of milk. Sometimes, when my kids' friends got sick at school, they came to my house. They all knew how to get in.

Living right in the middle school district, it was easy to get to PTO meetings, board meetings, school carnivals, conferences, ball games (hated those), concerts, dances. . . . and I think it is very important for a teacher to be seen at such after-hours school functions. It tells the students and their parents that the teacher CARES, and is interested in the children and the community outside the four walls of a classroom.

Many teachers will take exception to this philosophy and claim that they distance themselves from their school's community and families for very good reasons: sanity, independence, not wanting to be put under a microscope, unusual lifestyle, wanting to be free to 'cut loose' and drink, etc, and just simply wanting to keep business and personal lives completely separate.

With most jobs, that's easy and understandable.

Teaching is not like most jobs, though. I never felt it was a "job" at all, to be perfectly honest. I loved it too much for it to be a "job." I loved my students and I loved my classroom and I loved the lessons we did, and I felt an "ownership" for my kids that did not end when that last bell rang. When they stop by to visit me now, I feel more honored and happy than if Ed McMahon had stopped by with an oversized check.

Actually, I'd invite Ed in and give him lemonade, too. You hear that, Ed? Don't forget to bring that check.

As for my former students. . . . come on by, and come on in.

My phone number is in the book.

And for my current students, my phone number is on your syllabus. You can call here until 11:00 p.m.

I'm your teacher, not some clock-punching salesman who doesn't work off the clock.

For me, there is no clock.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:16 AM | |


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