A Kind Person

As a student, I looked forward to the end of the year with almost-uncontainable excitement.  As a teacher, I find it downright depressing.  All year, you've struggled to provide the best quality lessons, materials, strategies and encouragement to help your students learn.  At the end of the year, you see failures all around: the Literature student who has simply stopped turning work in because she's so far behind she knows summer school is in her future; the SAT student who still doesn't know how many sections are on the test; the Journalism student who thinks learning about world events was a waste of time because it wasn't relevant to her high-school existence.  There are successes, too, but they seem less glaring, especially to someone with standards as high as mine.

This year I had all my students fill out an anonymous, online survey about their experiences in my class.  I do this for every class I teach, but this was the first year I'd been able to tabulate the responses instantly (thanks, SurveyMonkey!) and I think the students felt more free to be honest when they knew I couldn't decipher handwriting.

The responses were mixed, as they always are.  There were plenty of good comments; many of the students said I was "knowledgeable," "enthusiastic," and willing to help them.  But there were also plenty of negatives.  They largely rejected my attempts at context-based vocabulary and wanted to go back to the inane, rote-memorization workbooks. I moved too fast; I didn't review enough for the quizzes; the assignments were "childish." Some wanted more test questions that resembled actual SAT problems; some were furious at me for including any at all.

One student in particular gave me basement-level ratings all the way through.  I think I know who it was; we got off on the wrong foot after an early  helicopter-mom confrontation, and although we were able to joke around with each other in class, I sensed her resentment and apathy.

However, at the end, under "What are the teacher's best qualities?" she wrote: "She is a kind person."

For me, that made it worth it.  I can't please everybody, and I can't even help everybody, especially those who don't want to be helped.  But I can be kind.  And if I've done that, it was a good year.