Through a Glass Darkly: Teachers, students learn from each other

The student slips her books into her backpack, flashes a smile and waves bye.

“I’ll miss your class,” she says.

I haven’t given final grades yet, but I think she means it.

A couple of the male students come to the front of the room and shake my hand.

They don’t say they’ll miss the class. I wouldn’t believe them if they did. They’ve had to work hard.

They do talk about what they’ve learned. I hope they don’t forget most of it as they walk out of the door.

A student who struggled from the first day thanks me in the hall for the time I’ve spent working with her before class. Writing has not come easy for her. Later, as I read the news story she wrote as part of her final exam, I feel gratified.

As I leave the building, my most gregarious student ignores my proffered hand and hugs me instead.

As I walk to my car, I have a warm, satisfied feeling. It’s good to feel you have accomplished something. It’s good to feel appreciated.

That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy a summer away from preparing lectures, creating reporting scenarios and critiquing writing.

People who have never taught aren’t likely to have an idea how many nights and weekends teaching takes up.

I’ll be glad to have those nights and weekends back for the summer, but I’ll still miss the students.

Sometimes I feel I learn more from them than they do from me. Not only do they keep me up with their generation, they make me think, make me question and make me create.

One way to categorize students would be to put them in three groups: those who just want to get by, those who want to make good grades and those who have an overriding desire to learn.

Perhaps a teacher’s most important job is to try to get them all into that last group. Once they are there, teaching becomes not only easy, but pure pleasure.

Seeing one idea spawn others and then seeing those ideas put to use is the overtime teachers don’t get paid.

For me, one of the pleasures of teaching news writing is passing on more than 40 years of experiences.

Students who have a driving desire to learn gobble up those experiences. Maybe they can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.

Most semesters, a couple of the students who came into class the first day just wanting to get by, walk out on the last day with the same attitude.

I feel a sense of failure as I watch them go. I hope some future teacher finds the spark to ignite their imaginations.

Several teachers at different education levels did that for me. They each lit another stage of my booster. Without any one of them, I might have tumbled out of orbit.

I hope that at some point I took time to make each of those teachers feel as good as some of my students made me feel on the last day of this semester.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@theadvocate.com.