Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thankful Thursday: My Special Students

When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to have a few really awesome teachers, and by really awesome, I mean completely.and.absolutely.incredible.teachers.  You know, the kind of teacher who really knows how impactful his or her job can be and takes pride in being the best teacher that they can be.  The kind of teacher who encourages you, supports you, and pushes you to do more, know more, and be more.  The kind of teacher that you know just "gets you" and wants you to succeed and be the best version of you that can be.  Yeah, you know the kind of teacher I'm talking about.  I had two of these teachers growing up: Mrs. Kelly and Ms. Crittenden.  I had several other awesome teachers who really made an impact on me, but Mrs. Kelly and Ms. Crittenden are the cream of the crop in my book, teachers that have made and majorly meaningful impact on my life.  Their lessons and support have stuck with me for so long now, that in many ways, they are still teaching me today.

Interacting with these teachers made me realize early on in my life that I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young people.  The kind of impact that makes kids know how incredibly special and talented they  are.  However, I never really wanted to be a teacher per se, and I considered myself lucky not to have been bit by "the bug" as my mom calls it.  As a teacher herself, she said no true teacher could deny the calling.  So, I chose to follow my dreams of impacting young people in a different way (which has led me to my current Ph.D program and career path.)  But, when I entered graduate school, I was presented with a really cool opportunity to work for a college learning community, teaching and working with first year college students.  Many of these students stay in the program as upperclassman and serve as student mentors, developing closer relationships with the staff and one another.  I jumped at the opportunity, thinking this would finally be my chance to give back, change lives, and be the kind of teacher that Mrs. Kelly and Ms. Crittenden had been for me.

However, last night, after meeting two of my student mentors for ice cream, I drove home feeling confused.  I had a delightful time with these two students, as we sat and chatted over ice cream and oreos for almost an hour and a half.  I left feeling so refreshed and happy; it was like nourishment for my soul.  But as I drove home, I thought about why I took my job and why I started teaching in the first place, to make an impact on students.  But a funny thing has happened during the past few years.  My students have made an impact on me.  They have significantly shaped me into a better person.  I'm not talking about "oh, they're cool students, I enjoy working with them" kind of shaped; I'm talking about "these students have made me think, dig deep, challenge myself, and expand what I know of the world" kind of shaped.  Each week when I leave my class and walk back to my office, I'll think back on something a student said or did in class.  I'll think about an interaction, a comment, or a realization that a student shared.  I am constantly encouraged by their desire to make a difference, challenged by the diverse young people that they are, and inspired by the things they have overcome.  They remind me to be curious, to fight for what I believe in, and to press harder when people tell you can't do something.  They listen with interest and curiosity, which has encouraged me to value and believe in the things I teach.  They truly have impacted and shaped my life in ways I never thought possible.

I got into teaching because I wanted to give back, and now that I'm teaching, I'm still receiving the type of encouragement and challenge I longed to one day share.  I don't know if I can explain it or make sense of this unexpected twist, but I certainly wouldn't trade it for the world.  What started as a cool graduate school opportunity, has turned into a delightful and life changing experience.  So while I will continue to strive to shape my students the way that Mrs. Kelly and Ms. Crittenden shaped me, I give great thanks for the many lessons my students have taught and continue to teach me.

Chaperoning a group of students on a spring break trip to Spain.
Jennifer was one of our longtime mentors and I adore her.  She has graduated and moved on, and I feel like a proud mama :)
 At a training before taking the students on an overnight retreat.  My students certainly keep the sassy part of my in check :)
  Hosting my students mentors for dinner.  Ugh, I love them.


Jacci said...

This was really sweet. I'm sure you are impacting them just as much as they are impacting you. It sounds like you are great at what you do. Have an awesome day!

Kendall and Brooks said...

My little brother has Ms Crittenden this year! I HEART her!

Sophia said...

Thank you Allison! You've no idea how much you've impacted my life even in the few months that I've known you. You're awesome!

Patricia said...

Thank YOU, Allison!
I was very excited this year when they told me I would get to be a mentor. And I was even more excited when they told me I could stay in Cushing! You (and Jenny and Krystavel!) are just overall lovely people that I enjoy being around.