Taking irrational pride in my students

Year 11s dance the night away at their debutante ball

After a challenging term three, the holidays granted me an opportunity to reflect on the year almost already gone – and to prepare myself for the final term of school.

A pattern that I have found over the last three terms of teaching is that I have, as I imagine many teachers do, an irrational pride for my students.

The first time that I noticed this was at the debutante ball, where the Year 11 students were formally welcomed into society. Most of these students had been looking forward to this night since Year 7 and were proud of the effort that they had put in to learn the dance routines and formalities that the night required.

As I sat at my table and observed the event, I felt fiercely proud of the students, many of whom I have not yet had the privilege of teaching. Who was I to take joy in the months of preparation and hard work to which I had not contributed? Why had no one told me that such a pleasurable experience could be gained from simply observing young people grow up around me?

A few weeks ago, as term three drew to an end and the attention spans of my year nines grew ever shorter, I discovered this pride may not be one directional.

On a research task for my Year 9 students, I realised that my learning instructions were not as clear as I had first assumed. While I was urgently re-explaining the task that was quickly losing the attention of my students, one such student came quietly up to the front of the class and handed me the prospectus of the university course to which she wanted to apply.

To me, it seemed that in the mind of this student, I had crossed some invisible boundary. I had transcended from being a not-to-be-trusted stranger at the start of the year to a confidant and knowledgeable other with whom she could discuss her career options.

Despite her inopportune timing, I thanked her for showing me. I realised that at some deep level, she just knew that I would want to know. For this, I was grateful. It told me that as much we teachers experience delight in the endeavors of our students, our students share that satisfaction in knowing that we care about them and are interested parties in their paths to adulthood and beyond.

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