Monday, June 8, 2015

How I Show I Care and How My Students Show Appreciation

"It's none of my business." - most people
"There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it." - Mean Girls

So I thought that the latter quote was from Albert Einstein, but I just googled it to find that what he said is a little bit more serious than what I was going for (though I don't disagree and Einstein - you are awesome, clearly). I'm not ashamed to be quoting Mean Girls, it is a classic film of my and today's youth.

This year I've thought a lot about these two quotes. My parents, and I think America, have steadfastly and successfully lived their lives staying out of situations and explaining that it wasn't any of their business to get involved. I haven't really questioned it; staying out of certain situations seemed like a good way to not come off as being rude or intrusive. I have a need for people to like me, so of course I followed this life philosophy as to not become unlikeable. However, this year I began to wonder if "it's none of my business" really meant "it's not important enough to me to get involved."

We had a new teacher at my school this year and she began teaching AP and Honors Biology with our team. (Full disclosure: I wanted to teach AP Biology and I do teach Honors Biology. Her AP students were my Honors students two years prior and I felt a responsibility for their learning of biology.) Within the first quarter, it became clear that she did not intend on teaching the AP Biology curriculum, and to a lesser extent, the Honors curriculum. In terms of AP, she actually completely stopped teaching for almost the entire second semester by way of daily computer webquests.

I'm embarrassed to say that it took me until April to speak up. I just felt and still feel that this is one of the reasons our schools suffer - there are people teaching who have little desire to teach. I know that the students in my school are bright and little lasting damage will be done by having an absent teacher. But it just didn't feel right. It felt like my silence was saying "I see what you're doing - which is nothing - and I'm okay with it (or worse, I support it)." I spoke to my superiors about my concerns. Two weeks passed and there was no change. Students inched closer to their AP exams. Then I felt that it was time to speak to my coworker. No change.

So my students and I decided to schedule some after-school study sessions. We met maybe four times and honestly, they weren't always productive, but I wanted to do what I could to help. I don't know if I handled the situation in the best way. But I think it was important to do something, even if it came off as nosy or superior to my coworker. I think I would feel a lot worse about myself, had I stayed silent.

My students left me a thank you card in my mailbox. They said it was nice to know that someone in the school cared about their learning. Today was the last day of school. They brought me a thank you lunch of sushi and cake.

I'm not saying to teach for the cake. I'm saying to do what you can, where you can and that your students are your students even if they're not on your roster. I think it's important to speak up when you see something is wrong. I don't think it was none of my business. I think our students are literally every teacher's business.