The Value of a Student
Although the teaching profession is generally under appreciated, I feel there are pockets of society where we are celebrated and our value is expressed. Over the last six years of working in the education field, I’ve read a lot of articles— some about the phenomenon of teacher burn out, some about teachers’ impact on students. But there’s one piece of the puzzle I feel like needs to be said. I don’t speak for every teacher/counselor/administrator/person who works in a school, but I know many of them would be in agreement.
I would not do my job if it wasn’t for my students. On a very basic level, this is just a clear fact. Who is there to counsel if I don’t have students? But on a deeper level, relationships matter. It’s said to staff at professional development to encourage us to make connections with our students. But what if we flip that on its head? Selfishly, relationships matter, because when you don’t want to get out of bed and go to work, sometimes you do it for your students. In fact, I firmly believe that in hindsight, the quality of a school year is directly dependent on our connections with our students. So this one’s for you, students.
You might just play a small cameo in our day, but your impact lingers. I don’t say this to give you a big head. I want to say this so you know how much we care. I want to say this because so many of you want to make a difference, and you may be doing it already without even knowing it.
Our interactions with you matter to us. Sometimes we practice the conversations we’re going to have with you in our heads (or maybe even sometimes out loud). We worry about you. We think about what you said, how you acted. Sometimes you’re the topic of our dinner conversation; sometimes you’re the stories we share with our families.
You aren’t customers. You aren’t clients. You’re the reason.
The reason we chose this career, even though we didn’t know you yet.
The reason we have hope, despite the bad days, weeks, months, even years.
I look back on my time as a student, and my path was surrounded by supportive, wonderful teachers. I adored them, and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to provide students with opportunities to lead, grow, and learn, just like they did for me. Little did I know that I had no idea what it was actually like to be them. If they cared about me even an ounce as much as I care about my students, I was blind to the amount of love I had in my corner. If they worried about me like I worry about my kids, I’m to blame for a lot of gray hair. If they talked about me like I talk about my kids, I didn’t realize that I was perhaps making an impact on them as well.
After my first year of teaching, I had to say a lot of difficult goodbyes. The senior class was full of students I had been with as a student teacher and stayed close with during my first year. Josh will attest; I was a wreck after graduation and all of the way through summer. I swore up and down, backward and forward, that I would never get emotionally attached ever again.
If you know me, you know that didn’t last long.
There’s a lot about this job that isn’t easy. I’ve had many sleepless nights, a lot of difficult conversations, a lot of tears, and definitely some regrets. But you, students (past or present), have kept me coming back. You’ve made the tough days worth it. And after six years, I can say that I am incredibly ambivalent about graduation. I love to celebrate your accomplishments, but it is hard to see you leave.
But I will continue to do what I can to raise you up, support you through the hard times, celebrate beside you during the good times, and be a part of this season of your life. And one day, maybe— just maybe— you’ll be a teacher, a mentor, etc. And you’ll get a taste of how deeply we cared for you. And you’ll pass it on too.