When They Say Thank You

When They Say Thank You

When it comes to “love languages,” I believe quality time is one of the top ones for me to give and receive. Words of affirmation, however, are not very easy for me to give and while I don’t mind/like to receive them, they don’t top the simple gift of spending time with someone.

The exception for this might come with students.

Over the course of teaching, I have had some very grateful students. Students who would thank me daily as they left the classroom or who wrote a nice Christmas card or who simply wrote my name down in their weekly journal under the list of three things they were thankful for that week. Sweet and considerate, some students will even apologize for the bad behavior of other students.

Generally speaking, however, teenagers are not the most grateful human beings. They are prone to complain when school involves schoolwork or when assignments have a due date. Things they cannot change, things that are pretty reasonable, and things that are simply a course of life are all fodder for criticism or complaints. Writing in complete sentences is even viewed as a form of punishment instead of a basic habit of the literate. The longer I teach, the more I am open to their feedback while also aware that essentially never will all students be pleased at the exact same time.

Knowing this, it makes the compliments all the more sweet when they arrive, which is perhaps part of the genius of the teenager. Since my position as a teacher is at times compared to that of a jailer or a dictator, when I hear specific words of gratitude from students, it means far more than they could possibly know. Knowing that 98% of the time I won’t be thanked makes the other 2% really sweet. I don’t think teaching is the only job where it seems like the people you work most closely with are the least grateful, but it is the job with which I have the most experience.

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Trading Frustration for Affection

Trading Frustration for Affection

It was either annoying or endearing.

The student said “hi” at the end of class, as he looked over my podium to casually glance at my computer screen. Then, he went to a stack of books, picked them up and looked at them, despite the fact that it seemed like they were not in a place where students should peruse. It was either annoying because he clearly didn’t know boundaries, didn’t respect my space as a teacher, and appeared to not know what should be private.

Or it was endearing because his attitude indicated the great comfort he felt in my classroom. Something about the way he was performing these actions seemed innocent and naive. Like a child who glances at a parent’s phone with interest rather than intrigue. Or a teen who roots through the cupboard looking for food to consume.

“You seem at home,” I said after he placed the books back on the stack.

“Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable,” he replied, most likely oblivious to what his actions could have meant.

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If I picked favorites…this would be it

I had all sorts of mushy feelings today for one of my classes.  They were working on a word find (with clues from the textbook, of course) and I guess I fell in love with them.

Every class period has its own flavor.  A few people can completely change the tone of the classroom.  And I think I realized today how much I like this class.  I actually spent a few minutes just watching them and smiling.  My heart was filled with this grand protective motherly feeling.  I wanted them to never grow up and to remain just as they are.  It isn’t often that I wish that for sophomores in high school.

This class interacts well with each other.  The students are young but fairly mature.  As they worked on the word find, a few of the boys were singing a song.  Another couple of boys were a little off to the side, working in a pair, and their conversation was so random but just very comfortable.  They like to talk at times, but they are respectful.  There are some really solid girls in that class–confident but not overbearing, smart but not trying to trip you up.  They answer my questions when I ask them.  When we do “contemplative time” (ten minutes of silence to contemplate a prompt I give them), they ask to do it again the next day.  I took them outside if they promised to not tell any other class and I believed they kept their promise.

Perhaps on Monday I will realize that these feelings were the fleeting result of Friday tiredness and a lucky day.  Yet I believe they will endure.  They are filled with a lovely joy, a bubbling energy, but tempered with some introspection and genuine heart.

Thank you, Lord.  May they always remain so.