the students, part 1: Liz

When people ask me what the best part about teaching is, I say it’s the students.  When I’m asked what the hardest part about teaching is, I give the same answer.  It seems that the things we love in life can often be the most infuritating, but the most rewarding. 

In my professional life, it’s all about the students.  It has to be in order for me to maintain any perspective and sanity.  I think I forgot that recently, but one of my former students reminded me why I love teaching so much, and why I became a teacher in the first place. 

Because of these precious, smelly, annoying, and lovely young people, I’ve decided to dedicate a series of posts to my experiences with them.  No administrators, no school policy issues, no whining…just some of the reasons why I’m a teacher, and the reasons for the good days. 

Liz was the first student I taught whose parent was also a teacher at my school.  This could have been an intimidating situation, but I knew enough about Liz’s mom to know that we shared a common goal:  get Liz through high school. 

If I could choose three words to describe Liz, they would be firecracker, determined, and firecracker.  She would frequently ask a series of content-based questions about the Roman Empire, Elizabethan England, the French Revolution…only to conclude, “that’s dumb”.  It wasn’t that she didn’t understand or didn’t care, that’s really what she thought. 

Liz was also never afraid to speak her mind, which I admired about her.  15-year olds tend to pick one of two sides: the most popular, or the second most popular.  Liz thought for herself on everything from music to religion to politics.  And she said it.  Out loud.  Sometimes it was scary. 

One day in class we were discussing our upcoming International Mystery Breakfast.  Students were required to dress up as an historical figure and play the part.  Liz thought she would make a joke.  “If I dress up as a Catholic priest, do I get to bring a little boy with me?” 

I yanked her out in the hallway and finally did what I had threatened to do the entires school year – I called her mom.  Instead of waiting several days for a conference, I only had to wait a matter of seconds for her mom to walk downstairs from her classroom.  It was amazing.

Because she was part of a Seminar social studies group, I taught her during her 9th and 10th grade years.  I was surprised to learn shortly into her sophomore year that she would be transferring to a different school because of some unfortunate circumstances involving other students.  That’s when I realized how important these students are to me – when I felt as strongly about Liz’s situation as I’m sure her own parents did. 

I still keep in touch with Liz, and the last time I talked to her she said, “you should write a blog post about me.”  Well Liz, here’s your post 🙂


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