Sunday, March 29, 2009


A student asked me a few questions last week, opening up a line of conversation. The questions were personal, in a way. Not about the class, but more about me. Why I teach, what I think as the new year begins... this is a bright boy who was asking.

I don't hide that stuff from my kids, but I do chose when to share it. He asked at the right time of the year, at the right time of the day, and at the right moment in his own development. He got answers to his questions.

I explained.... the beginning of the year is exciting to me. I meet my students for the first time, and the adventure begins all over again, only fresh. New kids to watch grow, and to help learn. The beginning of the year is my favorite time, and I'm usually there a week ahead getting ready, only because I'm so anxious to get started.

He asked... do I get angry at the new kids (since they don't know anything). I replied "No, I don't expect them to know anything. In that way, they can only show me improvement, and that's wonderful to watch". No, I don't get angry with the new students, but I then had to explain that this time of year with this class.... that can disappoint me tremendously. I went on to explain... by now I've invested seven months of work into these students, and some are just shining. (I asked him if he knew more now than when he started.... and he laughed... "WAY more!"). Other students.... not so shiny. I have some who have made it clear they don't want to be there, are not going to try, and are happy to disrupt everyone else as they crash. That's a hard pill to swallow. But, I only have to turn around and see one of my boys do something smart, or inventive, or skillfully, and I am happy again.

The young man asked... why do I teach? That is the hardest question of all. I think it has to be a part of who you are, of what you are. I've encouraged friends to try teaching... good technicians all and good people too. Each has said they could never do it. They could never spend all day working with kids, and putting up with bureaucracy to do it.

So.... why do *I* teach? I guess it's a part of me, and it's what I do. When I was a young man, and going to 'Vo-Tech' myself, the instructor was a hero of mine. Perhaps one of the smartest people I had ever met... and that's no exaggeration. In his off hours he worked with the Air Force figuring out how to launch missiles from aircraft without blowing either up. I wanted to be like him, or at least as good as him at whatever I ended up doing. He showed me, perhaps for the first time in my life, what teaching could really be all about.

Now, I am an instructor at a Career and Technical Center. Every working day I have given to me a large number of young men to work with, to train, to mentor, to lead, to push, to coerce, to discipline, and to watch over and protect. I try to avoid thinking hard about that responsibility at the wrong moment, as it can can cause one to just freeze up. My partner and I, we are Teachers. We do what needs to be done, we do it well, and we do it because we love it.

There's nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing.

You know... Kids ask the darnedest questions.


Old NFO said...

Damn good question, and a damn good answer! Well said!

Earl said...

And one of those days when they ask the right questions at the right time, is the finest moment and all the reward you need for your job well done, and I do thank you for sharing. You tell great stories.

Christina LMT said...

I'm one of those "never-could-teach" people. Too impatient and I have problems explaining things. *sigh*

I have a question for you, too: do you ever have any female students?

Carteach0 said...

Christina, Some years I have one, maybe two girls. That seems to be about it.

A few months ago, I was asked by the principal of a sending school "How many girls do you have in your program?" To which I replied "As many as you send me".

Very few girls want to do this for a living, just as we have very few boys in our dental assisting and cosmetology programs.

When I do get girls, they are treated the same as every student, and respond the same as every student (in my experience). I've had a couple very, very good female students. One of them, at LEAST as good as any male student in her year. On the other hand, I've never had a male student get pregnant and have to drop the program for medical reasons.

It's a tough program, and I suspect most girls think they have it tougher. That would be a wrong conclusion, but I understand it.

Christina LMT said...

Carteach, I never for a moment considered that you or any other instructor might make it tougher on female students. I was more wondering how they were treated by their male classmates. Yeah, we had way more female students at my massage school than male. Nature of the beast, I guess.

Carteach0 said...

I didn't take it that way, that we'd make it tougher. The reality is, when I have girls I have to make sure I don't unintentionally make it easier.

As for the boys, and how they react, either times have changed or I've been lucky. Not a single problem that way. Two girls especially come to mind.... one was SO much smarter than most of the boys, they were just in awe. Another, so much meaner they were downright scared and refused to go near her (g).

As for me, I find myself forgetting the girls are... well.... girls. They are students, and one of my kids, and everything else just seems to be extra.