An Apology to Many Great Teachers

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Probably my favorite part about this year at “THE ROCK” so far has been my involvement in the pastoral department.

When he is not molding minds in the theology classroom you can usually find Mr. Vitale (sorry I know it’s weird to speak in the third person but I really like my new name…) hanging out in one of the most welcoming and lively spaces at Rockhurst High School. It is there, where instead of always juggling content, spiritual development, and classroom management, I am blessed with opportunities to simply enjoy the company of students and colleagues. To be present in the moment . . . to really get to know some of these young men and to watch as they get to know one another.

In the midst of these conversations there is one topic that has recently captured my attention: the reputations of teachers among the students. Too much homework.  Laborious essay tests and papers. These are common perceptions that students rave about when discussing teachers. Some argue, teachers who are imposing in these ways “do not care for us.”

Up until a few short months ago, when I was on the student side of the podium, I shared this line of thinking.  I recalled specific teachers at SLUH who were similarly attacked just as harshly for their arduous demands on us.

Over these last few months, though, I have been the teacher assigning and grading the homework and tests. I have been the one pestered by students when such work is not handed back to them the following class. I have been the one chosen to adopt a more scantron-based test format because grading the first round of fill in the blank and short answer questions was taking a little longer than I would have liked.

Over these last few months I have experienced the behind the scenes portion of teaching. In addition to the countless hours of planning by all I have witnessed, the English teacher who spends a ridiculous amount of time sifting through a single essay, making more comments than I would have thought possible, the math teacher who not only marks the problem wrong but follows by discovering where the student went wrong and then writes out the proper procedure.

As a student I failed to fully understand that while it may have taken more time and energy on my part to complete the lengthy assignments, it increased the workload of those “difficult” and “mean” teachers tenfold.  Maybe at times even a hundredfold.

I would like to end by thanking all teachers. Especially the ones who get branded with the image of not caring about their students when in fact they are often the ones who care the most but sadly rarely get recognized for it.

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