You know I will always be real. No lies or silkscreens here. At least, as few as I can manage, I promise you that.
Sometimes, I have trouble accepting how students who may be less motivated are treated in the classroom here. Rather than take the extra time to help students figure out questions in their own way, I feel like the classroom culture instead pushes people who are even a little bit different against a wall. Students who don’t finish corrections in time are instead asked to copy a classmate’s. At least, that’s what a substitute decided to do in her classroom today. Instead of engaging with a problem, the teacher told me since this is what students did in junior high, she figured it would be completely acceptable in an elementary school setting.
Maybe when I first started teaching, I would write this off as collectivism. Students all have the same amount of time to complete something, so the ones who don’t need to “catch up” to the rest. After thinking seriously about the issue, I am not sure that is the case. I still believe human kindness is valued across cultures, and refusing to teach someone falls under negligent cruelty. I gave up teaching a dance class today to make sure two students received feedback and corrections before their midterms. (The teacher didn’t actually pick up the phone, so I assume they were out of the class anyways. Even if not, I would choose to help out kids who might not understand a concept).
Don’t get me wrong. These two individuals were far from happy that they had to give up their break alongside me. If they could decide, they would have just copied the problem and run out of the classroom. I received glares and huffs of frustration. Nonetheless, there we were working together to understand those strange combinations that make up English words. It was difficult to see students struggle, but at the same time I believe it’s needed. After all, sometimes what someone wants and what they need are completely different, often contradictory things.
Am I saying that all teachers need to give up their lunch breaks to help out students? No, but I’m saying that a little bit of selflessness never hurt anyone. (You can also eat and teach/learn at the same time…but that’s a different story.) Growing up in a consumerist society, I believed that everything was about me. Even if I was in pain, the whole world had to know my suffering. However, that’s simply not the case. As a teaching assistant, you might be needed when you least expect it. The students are worth it. They deserve your attention. It certainly doesn’t mean you get to give up.
It is my firm belief that every student has the right to a quality education. As a teaching assistant, I want to help them study and become the best version of themselves. Maybe these two students won’t remember me in a year. Maybe they could care less about my attention to their English competency. However, I know that if I hadn’t stopped them from copying and gave them at least the chance to learn, then I was robbing someone else’s future.
I hope that even decades down the road, I value learning more so than I do now. If it were about the destination, I would have let those students copy their classmates’ workbooks word for word. Yet true learning, and life (I would venture to say), takes place in the in-between places, the getting-there’s, the journey itself.
Sappy though it is, it’s true still.
Happy Children’s Day.