I am a teacher with only two work days before I am not employed at a school and I'm reflecting on my career and especially this past year. I have answered a few student emails today mostly with exam questions since that is looming. One student, however, sent me some questions she was wondering about. Does caffeine always wake people? Do some beverages taste better in a glass bottle than a in a can? Can immunity to a disease be passed on to the next generation? These are things she was wondering about. I told her this was my favorite email of the year. Why? Because she was not only wondering but took the time to wonder "out loud" over email to me. I can see this young lady become a scientist some day and asking so many amazing questions. Honestly, she was not looking for an answer. She admittedly could have googled to find them if she wanted. She was just thinking about things in her world. What a gift I received by her sharing her thoughts.
This year was difficult due to the pandemic caused by COVID19 but I would not trade a moment of it. I learned a lot about teaching online and connecting with students in ways that I never had to before. If I could have hoped to instill one thing in students as they have passed through my classes over the last 25 year, it would be a senses of wonder.
The other thing I am thinking about is how important it is to build relationships with students. I have always known that the better I knew my students both inside and outside of the classroom, the better our working relationship would be. Students are just like other people. They want someone to CARE. This year that was even more important than ever.
Students had many things happening at home such as siblings they were responsible for during zoom classes, parents working from home and parents who lost jobs. The distractions were endless for them. The isolation for them was real too. Since we were virtual 50% of most of the year, students had to teach themselves material sometimes. When we were in person, since I taught freshmen who did not know each other for the most part, I tried to make them interact and work together. Usually this is my strength - facilitating group work. This year I had to be really direct and tell them WHY they had to work together. We all learn better when we have the chance to talk new ideas through with others. Students were resistant to working with others this year, but I was irritatingly persistent. In the end, it was worth pushing them.
I learned to be more compassionate. When there are so many new worries and few outlets for sharing with friends on a regular basis, students need MORE and even MORE compassion and grace and so do teachers. I'm very blessed to have had a wonderful group of young women to work with this year who provided me with laughter and gave me the grace I needed to do the best I could. Thank you, ladies, for an amazing year!