What challenges confront the high school teacher in the global environment? How must a mentor adapt to the changing relationships between technology and the youth? And conversely, how must the youth comport themselves in a world that came before them? Filipina-American Eleanor Hernandez shares her thoughts to Resurgent as an educator in one of America's most educationally rubust cities.
In this time of immediate communication, there’s an influx of articles asking us as a society and culture to see from the teacher’s eyes. With all due respect for our profession, they’re usually Elementary school teachers detailing the sacrifice of their precious time and energy (and money!) to make sure the littles ones are given the comforts of home around other germ-spreading buggers who have much less self-awareness than their secondary school siblings. I’m absolutely not discrediting them, they’re my friends and family too!
But as these same little buggers grow into their big people age, the apathy in education increases as you get older. Disdain and trials of dealing with authority figures that aren’t your parents make it a much-more- dramatic-than-the-average experience. Teachers who publicly take advantage of a student’s weakness and gloat about it. Or students who executed the perfect revenge against a churlish teacher. Everyone has become an expert in education because the majority of us have all attended school at some point in our lives. While it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
While my stint in education isn’t so prominent, it has given me the perspective of what it’s like on the other side of the mirror. And one that I hear often when I tell people that I teach high school is:
You’re a high school teacher? You must be good if you like it so much, because my teacher absolutely hated me. And he/she sucked as a teacher.
Some of those teachers who have made the news doing ridiculous things really deserve their punishments, yet the rest are given a bad name with rising incidences. And I thought about it.
What criteria do I have to just absolutely, resolutely hate a student? And why would that be a necessary qualifier to be considered a “good” educator? Why do my students even have to like me in order to become learnt?
Say that you said your teacher hated you. You say that you don’t like him/her. You say these unfortunate things yet your teacher is not paid to like you or to make you like him/her. As teachers, we hear things, we see things. If what we are hearing and seeing don’t match up, it doesn’t not automatically become a qualifier to hate you.
Like that time you fell asleep in class and I gently woke you up amidst giggles and embarrassment. I knew you stayed up all night because you spent the whole afternoon with your sister in the hospital who has cancer and no one else could stay with her as she got her chemo treatments.
Or when you have a chronic medical condition and all your family’s money goes to pay the bills. Because I know you aren’t as well off as some of your peers, I always had a pencil or pen for you in class. I pay for those out of my own pocket just so you don’t have to go without.
I’ve separated groups of friends because sitting together increased the risk of plagiarism and reduced productivity. I’ve given money to students who would stay on campus til late and didn’t bring dinner. Comforted students during an anxiety attack in middle of class.
These aren’t things that a teacher hates you for. They get annoyed when you keep interrupting the lesson to look good in front of your friends. Frustrated when parents don’t communicate properly with the counselors to get you the accommodations and help you need.. Definitely concerned when your artwork begins to showcase dark themes and graphic maiming. Not everyone is a model student, and being insufferable to a teacher does not give you a free pass.
But if you are noticed for not doing your best, wouldn’t you think that a rightfully concerned teacher would know when you can do better? I’d like to think so. (Ms. Hernandez a Filipino-American born and raised in the US. She currently teaches technology at a private high school in Houston, TX.)