This post could, just as easily, be called "A Series of Things," but fulfilling that title would require way more reading than any of you want to be a part of.
I am on Cloud 9 right now. I am on Cloud 9 because while waiting for lunch today, Marcos Ospina (former student, about to start 8th grade in the fall) facebooked me asking if we (his family and I) could meet for dinner tonight, they'd be passing through O-town. I said of course! This is a great family, one of the (many) reasons that I miss the community at Fireside ES. It was so great to see them! They inspired this post. Them, and a question that I was asked during my interview earlier today.
The question was, "Would you rather be liked or respected by your students?" Of course the answer is respected. Although, I was kinda proud of my answer, as I'd never put a lot of thought in to it. I instantly said respected, and I it's because respect doesn't always follow affection, but affection always follows respect. I say that now unequivocally. During the interview, I pointed out that it can be years later, and we may never know as educators, but the students who respect us always like us later... even though it's sometimes years later. We hope that when that happens, they come back and let us know, but we also know they might not.
Catching up with the Ospina family was wonderful. I realised (even while I was doing it) that I was talking more than listening, but it was awesome! We reflected on old times, and things that had happened back in the day. Pictures were taken, and laughs were had, by all. Advice was given, and then immediately contradicted when stories were told to the contrary. At the end of the night, hugs were passed about, and sentiments shared, when Marcos said (I believe in jest) that one of the great strengths I have as a teacher is that the students don't complain about me to their parents. I laughed, as we all did, but the Ann poignantly and seriously confirmed that, but elaborated for a parent's perspective: Kids in my class want to come to school. Marcos is a high-achieving, talented kiddo, so it is one thing to get him, and kids of his "ilk" interested, but Ann told me that their neighbor, who was also in Marcos' class, ALSO loved coming to school when he was in my class. This particular student is a struggler. Great attitude (most of the time), but really had some serious difficulty in class. He love coming to class. That's two kids that are two totally different learners who both loved coming to my class.
If we're being honest (and I can do that easily behind the cover of a typed blog!) I am getting a bit emotional reflecting on this. It's a great emotional though. I had never been explicitly told, "My kid never liked coming to school until you were his/her teacher." Now, this wasn't about her kid, but when Ann mentioned that about the other kiddo, that meant something. I know how scary of a place school can be when you struggle, how much you dread having to go there. This young man looked forward to being in my classroom each day.
As a teacher, we want to make a difference. Every day we deliver instruction that sometimes is a striking success and sometimes is abject failure. Every day we are charged with the care and education of one of (cheesy/trite forthcoming) what is truly America's greatest natural resource. It's rare (I think) to have the feedback be so immediate. Yeah, it's over two years later, but it set my heart aloft. I've been floating since she said that to me. I've never doubted my choice to teach. Now I never will.
When you like a person without respecting them, that affection is fleeting. When your affection is born from respect, that affection is lasting deep.
Today, I learned I have truly made a difference, even if it was only in the lives of those two families.