For Teacher Appreciation Week, aware of my affinity for all things superhero, students gave me a poster of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. For a more personal touch, they signed their names on the back of it, and I can’t wait to frame this memento. But as I think about all of the terrific things teachers do, I’m also left wondering why we don’t have a “Student Appreciation Week.”
In my seven years in the classroom, I’ve learned an extraordinary amount from students. In fact, the more I embrace self-directed learning and a changing student-teacher dynamic, in which adults and youth work and learn together, the more educated I become. From academic enlightenment to life lessons, I have my students to thank for helping to make me more well-rounded, inquisitive, aware, caring and hip.
Here are only some of the things I appreciate about students.
- I appreciate how students inspire my intellectual curiosity and creativity. When reading history essays, I’m frequently awed by high-quality sources used to inform an individual’s views. I revel in discussing with students how they arrived at certain conclusions, which often encourages me to reconsider my own thoughts. I’m also grateful when students recommend a great book, which they came across during their own studies. In my journalism class, students often forward me the day’s top headlines, keeping their teacher apprised of what matters most to them.
- I appreciate how students inform and teach me about developing technologies and social networking platforms. Students, not adults, introduced me to Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat, and from them, I also learned which I should use for my own purposes. The same goes for Audacity, a free but powerful sound editing software, as well as iMovie and Adobe Photoshop, all of which I rely heavily upon not only for The Falconer, the student news site I advise, but also for my own education reporting.
- I appreciate how students politely advise me about my fashion sense (or at times, lack thereof). Last year, a class of fashion-oriented juniors didn’t shy from expressing their views. Apparently, skinny ties are now hip, and I was politely advised to consider making a small wardrobe change. I imagine many teachers wouldn’t like students commenting on their dress, but my students do so in the most polite, appropriate way.
- I appreciate how students make me feel constantly energetic. There’s something marvelously infectious about being around enthusiastic and interested young people, whose sheer presence makes me feel strong and young; they make me believe that anything is possible. In fact, I often say that my most trying day would be considered somebody else’s best day elsewhere. If you want to be happy, be around happy people. Without question, my students are upbeat, spirited, and happy.
- I appreciate how students recommend quality music to enhance my eclectic taste. Between class periods, I often play music for no other reason than enjoyment. Often, students ask what song I’m playing, and often, discussion leads to recommending other music I might enjoy. If not for students, it’s likely that I wouldn’t have become such a fan of Mumford & Sons, We Are Augustines, Ed Sheeran, Bon Iver, and a host of other artists. Of course, I would do well to forget One Direction.
- I appreciate how students (whether they know it or not) motivate me to stay healthy and in shape. Teaching requires lots of energy, and to be the best teacher I can be (and to keep up with younger energy levels), I care for my body as well as my mind. Almost every day, I run at least five miles at a 6:15 clip. I run 8-9 miles on Saturdays, and I take Sundays off to sleep late. During the summer, to fully recharge my batteries for the school year ahead; I up my training to be able to log 85 miles per week. This may sound impressive, but it’s nothing compared to what I expect of my varsity cross country runners.
- I appreciate learning from students about how to care for one another. Certainly, like adults, students can also be mean and even downright cruel. But more often than not, I observe students committing tremendous selfless acts of kindness, from something as simple as holding open a car door, to going to exceptional lengths to console community members in mourning. I’ve learned as much from my students about what it means to be a good and decent person as from any adult.
What have you learned from students? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.