Tuesday Night, October 3........
In the seventeen years that I have been teaching, I have come to have a very special relationship with my students. Some people understand ; some do not. I went to college in the days when the focus was on the individual student. From my senior year at UNCC, in a sociology course, I learned that if I concentrated on the concerns of others, that I would be rewarded. I began listening to others more and, before I had realized it, my philosophy of life had shifted from the "me" emphasis. In my first year of teaching at South Rowan, my style was not readily accepted. I listened to my students. I cared about their viewpoints. I told corny jokes in class, saw them as human beings with strengths and faults,
gave thought-provoking American Literature essay tests, and forgave an occasional slip of the tongue. I played music in my classes and required journals. I marched to the beat of my own drum. And it was not easy. I encountered jealousy from my peers. I was shunned by the veterans. I was told by my principal that I would forever be seen as an outsider...but to
"bow my back," and press on. He knew what I was trying to accomplish. A few people were surprised to see me back for a second year.
Within a few years, I began to earn respect.
A few more New Bloods came in and I found myself becoming the old man. But my style and philosophy never changed. And my students were equalling or scoring higher than their peers who were being taught by the veterans. Along the way, I asked to teach a course which had not been taught at South for 6 years.... Creative Drama. I began with one class of 30 or so in the chorus room and, when I left South Rowan two years ago,had developed a full-time progam with close to 200 students. In its final year, one-fourth of the student body had taken, or were taking, theatre. I never forgot a face along the way, and leaving hurts me to this very day. During the course of my fifteen years at South, I went to my kids weddings, cried at a few of their funerals, was the Best Man in a wedding, had numerous pictures made with my kids, fell in love with one of my kids years later when she was in college, was invited to homes to eat, was lied to, confided in, backstabbed, hugged, cursed and praised.
And so it is now at East Forsyth. Years from now, when all is said and done, I will still wonder then, as I do tonight, how a teacher can keep from being personally involved and still call himself a teacher. I love what I do. I am the epitome of being Misunderstood. Yet, I press on. Without my students, I would have no job.
Without the prejudice of society and the cynical skepticism of ignorance, I would enjoy my job even more.
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