Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father of Thousands

Sometimes, my three daughters get confused when I reference "my kids"--and I'm not talking about them. Then, very quickly, I mention my students' successes or struggles on their current essays and the "my kids" to whom I'm referring becomes much clearer.

That's right--my students.

As I celebrate Father's Day with my own family, I think of the eerie similarities:

  • I push my students to think about others. Through the literature we read, the current news we discuss, the connections we make in the community through our essays, students are forced to think about their place in the world and about the voice they have. (It's the push I give my children when we read Wonder by RJ Palacio.)
  • I get frustrated with them. When they don't take care of the necessary work, I get mad. The work I ask them to do is meant to help them in the long run. It's meant to help them take care of day-to-day tasks. It's meant to make them care for deadlines. (It's the frustration I feel when my children won't clean their rooms.)
  • I encourage them to do things they've never done before. My students won't always know what's good for them unless they are encouraged to push outside of their comfortable box of education. How can they know whether they like Emily Dickinson's style unless they read her? How can they know how their words form meaning in a persuasive essay unless they send it out to the intended audience? A student has to try. I'm there to push. (It's the encouragement I give my children when I suggest they try a new food.)
  • I'm proud of them for the things they do. And I'm proud of them for the things they try to do. When a student writes an essay to the school board and hears back--even if only a couple lines--I'm proud. When a student is motivated to apply for a TEDx conference, I'm proud. When a student learns to like a piece of literature when he least expected it, I'm proud.  (It's the pride I feel when my children learn to ride their bikes.)
So--yes, my students are my kids. I care about them in much the same way. Their success is my success. Their pain is my pain. 

And, more than anything, I care about the kind of people they will be as I help to push them out into the world.