Not all teachers are teachers ~(?)
“Not all teachers are teachers.” she says looking at me expectantly. I have an inkling what the student means but I ask for a clarification nonetheless. “Well,” she says and her eyes dart to the other two students at the table “Not all teachers care, they will hurry through a class and when we have 150 minutes they’ll put it in 30 minutes and then end the class. Other teachers, they love what they do, you notice that.”
The other two agree and nod, the experience the students have is similar to my own when I was a student. Teachers that are excited and involved are better at teaching the course, it becomes more believable and you want to learn it more since they seem to like it so much.
Now, not all classes we teachers have to teach are always completely in line with what we want to teach. A few years ago I taught a data analytics class and while the subject interests me, teaching it was horror-fuel to me. I do not know why I disliked teaching the class so much, there was just something about having to explain the interpretation of a bunch of digits on a screen that made me deeply unhappy. I would have a way longer prep time than for other classes because I tried to prepare for every possible question (and still got different ones in class).
My class, however, gave me very positive (anonymous) feedback afterwards. I was flabbergasted since I really thought I did a horrible job on the course- but the students liked my classes and they did well on their test. Win-win.
It was the conversation I had the other day with three of my students I taught last semester that made me think of this again. It is because I genuinely love teaching, which is hilarious because I never wanted to be a teacher in the first place, but I do. This semester I don’t have any classes due to other responsibilities so when I get an excuse to sit down with some students and talk to them I take it.
As we sit together, some colleagues side-eye me laughing at one of the vacation stories that a student tells me. As if it is a sin to see these bright young people as anything different than what they are: bright young people. Just because I am a teacher doesn’t mean I should see them as less human (or enjoy their horror-stories about things happening over their breaks any less). In that same conversation I learned about how much they love the teaching of one of my colleagues, how they experience workload versus complexity and why they chose one course over another.
I found that showing genuine interest in my students works both ways- they learn more and feel seen and I learn an incredible amount from them. Maybe not all teachers are teachers, but some students can teach us how to be teachers. If only we are willing to learn.