I am going to start my reflection with a quote that defines my year so far at Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, MO), with brutal honesty as I like to do it. “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes, then learn how to do it later.” This is about all I could think about while reflecting upon my experience in the classroom so far and within the school itself. There has been no greater teacher within my life than the anxiety and pressure that goes with experience, more than preparation or reading a book has ever taught me. An analogy I often use comes from my experience on the football field, where I can prepare all I want, but it is somehow more real when the lights shine on game day. Teaching is no exception, as I like to call it from my experience, the ultimate, “living in the moment,” profession. Every day is going to be different, depending on how I feel, how the young men feel, what is going on that day, the time of day, and so on, so I must be able to adapt in ways many people aren’t asked to, no matter how much I perfected my lesson plan the night before. Some days are going to be great successes, but some days are going to be complete failures. Taking the humble pie and balancing that with the pat on the back has been nothing less than a beautiful thing, hopefully for all of us.
Instead of taking this moment to highlight all the wonderful things that have happened so far this year, I would like to talk about the failures that make me smile way more than the good moments could ever allow me to. The first test of the semester was a brutal one, and trust me. The night after I gave the test, I sat at my desk, took a deep breath, and threw out the lesson plan that I had prepared for the next day, and I just told myself, “I need to talk to them.” That following day, I pulled out a desk from the front row, sat down, and simply asked them what I could do better. They seemed to be taken back by this, but jumped at the opportunity to express their opinions on ways to help them individually become more successful students. I believe these are the moments that speak volumes beyond any masterful lesson plan could ever give them. Teaching them humility and how to be humble are things that I can teach them as a role model that will go farther than learning the difference between an autotroph and a heterotroph on the biological food chain.
I had great doubt in my teaching ability prior to the beginning of this experience, but taking the opportunity that I was far from prepared for has been blissful to say the least. Sometimes it is about breaking the walls back down, and building upon my foundational strengths that go far beyond intellect or understanding of an individual topic. These guys won’t remember an ounce of information that I give them, but they will remember how I make them feel and the intangible ways in which I helped build them as men for others.