Friday, November 6, 2009

The Teacher Becomes The Student

Part of being a good teacher requires a good deal of humility. This is not something I was taught in my teaching classes during my college years, but rather a lesson taught to me by the students I would teach. After 24 years in the business of education as well as the return to my faith, I now try to approach my teaching from a point of humility instead of waiting for that inevitable moment when I will be humbled or humiliated. (although that still happens from time to time).
Last month I wrote several posts on parenting and teens written from my own experiences in growing up in a household devoid of a living faith.(see related posts link at the end of this post)
This past week I found myself in the middle of a discussion with one of my 17 year old students. The conversation was enlightening as well as a bit troubling. This young woman and I have had several conversations during the times we have worked together so we are both aware of where we stand on certain issues. In our most recent discussions, she mentioned Oprah, with whom she knows I have a bit of a problem. She said, "I guess you don't like Obama either." To this I responded that it wasn't the people I disliked, but their views and politics. To her Obama statement I responded that he seems to be OK with the killing of countless unborn babies. That's when the conversation got interesting as well as personal. My young friend is extremely wishy washy on the whole life issue. The old line of, "I am pro-choice. I wouldn't have an abortion, but women should have the right to choose." came out of her mouth. So I said what I always say to people who say they are pro-choice, "Finish the sentence, choose what?"(I stole that from Fr. Corapi)No one can ever seem to finish that sentence with what that choice is~DEATH. My young friend as well as every other pro-choice person I have said this to starts babbling a hundred "yes buts..." What seemed to amaze this young woman was my no-nonsense, unfliching, won't back down attitude when it came to where I stand on this issue. To those of you who know my story, the answer to the question going through your head at this point is no, I did not reveal my post-abortive status to her. It wasn't the right time to do so, but I will if I discern that it is necessary.
I do believe this conversation planted some seeds and some food for her thought. So this is what she learned from me during that ten minutes. This is what she taught me...
It brings us back to Oprah and a guest she had on her show some time ago. Because I tend to keep myself a bit out of the loop, I had never heard of Dr. Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture. This brilliant professor from the Carnegie Mellon University died at the age of 47 last year from pancreatic cancer. He is among the pioneers in the work of virtual reality technology.
My young friend was completely taken with this man's work, but even more so with his beautiful humanitarian ethic. She kept saying, Miss Karin you have to read his book!" I promised her I would at least Google him the next day. And so I did; I found the video of his last lecture on childhood dreams. For an hour and sixteen minutes I listened to this man with an amazing mind and love for life and people speak. Dr. Pausch has a wonderful sense of humor and a very charismatic personality. That being said, all through listening to him I kept waiting for him to mention God and how He played into all of this. God was never mentioned. Now I do not know for sure what this man's religious beliefs are so I am not going to comment on them. I took the lecture at face value and applied God to it myself.
I had another session with my young student that afternoon. I told her that I had watched the video. She was surprised I had watched the entire thing. When she asked me what I thought, I told her that I thought he was a brilliant man with a good heart, but there was something missing, the something being God. The conversation came to a bit of a standstill at that point and we went on with the SAT prep she was there to do.
Yes, this young woman was entrusted to me for the purpose of preparing for her college boards, but sometimes God throws a curve ball into my lessons and shows me that there is something more important than Passaged Based Reading and Grammar that needs to be taught. During these times, I usually reserve the last 5 or 10 minutes of the hour for God's lesson plan.
My point in all of this is that our teens are hungry for the Truth even if they don't always realize it. This young woman has a beautiful heart but she is on the slippery slope of the world's values.
The other point being that as adults and teachers we need to be open to and carefully listen to what our teens are saying. They too just might have something to teach us. I really believe that the fact that I took the time to research and listen to someone this young woman was very passionate about has kept the door open to future conversation, and only God knows where that may lead. I don't have to give up my beliefs to listen to someone else's. And maybe, just maybe with some prayer, a heart can be changed.
If you would like to listen to Dr. Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, here is the link to the video. I actually do recomend it; there are some good things in it.

Related Posts
A Plea To Parents
Godly Parents Equal Godly Teens

4 comments:

Anne said...

I wish my kids had a teacher like you. Even at a Catholic school, I shake my head at the lack of values that the teachers pass on to the students. They do not know the faith and they do not teach the faith. I guess that's why they have me, still it's nice to have the support in the world outside the home. Good for you for living and sharing your Christian values with your students!

Colleen said...

Beautiful post. What a wonderful teacher you are! Taking time to talk to this girl. She will never forget it, I can assure you. As for the Last Lecture, I did not see the video. I read the book. It was very good. I did miss the mention of faith and God. He did go to church. He mentioned it at the end. Said he felt that religion was personal and so he didn't talk about it in his lecture. Thank you!

Karinann said...

Ladies,
Thank you for your very kind words. The thing is, if my director knew I was having these conversations she would be none too happy about it.
Anne-there was a day when I would have been one of those "lacking values"teachers. I cringe when I think about some of the things I may have said to students in my early days of teaching!

Colleen- thanks for the info about the book, will add it to my to read list.

HeartfeltHeartLook said...

Very Good post Karinann. Thank you! I also like the widow's mite post. That reading today stuck with me.

Thanks for visiting my blog ~ too much is going on...hope you are well. Hugs and love!!

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.