Before the semester began, I thought that there were only a limited number of “types” of students in the average classroom in a school like De Smet Jesuit. I graduated from De Smet myself only 6 years ago. But the diversity of a classroom from the perspective of the teacher is so much greater than it seems to a student.
In my mind there were going to be the ones who like my class, simply because they like or are good at the subject; there were going to be the ones that don’t, won’t and wouldn’t even if I was the best teacher in America. I thought there would be students who read the material and cared, students who didn’t read but still cared, students who had trouble paying attention, but still cared, and a number of students who didn’t care. Then there’s always the students who spend more time studying than doing anything else.
But the complex truth is that two students from the same socioeconomic background, who happen to be the same age, and who work just as hard and are just as interested in the material, might need to be dealt with in two completely different ways. Multiply this problem by about 100 (or in my case, 98), and you have the job of a full-time high school teacher at De Smet Jesuit. This is a remarkable thing. It’s overwhelming, but at the same time it’s pretty cool. Just this evening, I’ve had to answer a few emails from students who wanted to clarify something I told the class 4 or so times now, as well as posting it online, and emailing it to them. I was told, generally, that I’ll need to say things multiple times, because often high school freshmen don’t listen very well. But, again, the real story is that you don’t know which ones are going to be listening that day or that week. They switch roles.
I continue to be inspired, however, for in as many ways as my students (all freshmen) have left me in the lurch of confusion as to their various responses to my early attempts at directing them in their first days and classes at De Smet Jesuit, there have also been positive surprises. The best part is you never know who will be the next to surprise you.