The human side of teaching has always been one of my strengths. The students can connect with my teaching style and expectations. They know that I’m there to greet them every morning and wish them a good evening every afternoon. They respect me (because I respect them) and they trust me (because I trust them). They know I am fair. They know that I want every kid in the class to succeed.
Throughout the school year, they have seen me happy and laughing. They have seen me angry and disappointed in them (not all, but many). They have seen me sad about choices they’ve made in the classroom or out of the classroom. They’ve heard my booming voice when I’ve been excited about teaching science, reading, and writing, and they’ve heard my quiet voice when I’m not happy about something. Needless to write, they have seen me (every emotion).
Yesterday, they were shocked. They realized that they did not know me as well as a thought. They hadn’t seen every emotion. Yesterday, they saw me cry. They have seen sad, but not “crying” sad. Some were nervous. Some were confused. Some were speechless. All of them were shocked.
We are reading a book entitled Surviving Hitler (by Andrea Warren), and the story is about a boy, named Jack Mandelbaum, that survived many of his teenage years in concentration camps. The story is told from his perspective, but during chapter 4 when he speaks about being forcefully separated from his younger brother and mother, I always read that part of the story and think about it from the mother’s perspective. Being a proud father of four kids, it is difficult not to look at the situation from her perspective. This part crushes me.
I made it almost one full page past the part when I could no longer read because my breathing and tears were too much. This is when a young lady in the front row took over for me. As I attempted to get my composure, there were forty-four concerned eyes locked on me. Many of the students had their mouths open in awe. Of course, I pointed to the page in the book to make sure that they were reading along (and so all eyes were off of me). The young lady did a splendid job reading the rest of the chapter (She even said, “I am pausing to read the captions of the picture on top of the page. Please follow along.” Just like I do – this brought a smile to my face.). At the end of the chapter, before the discussion began, she even whispered, “You okay, Mr. Starowicz?” And I responded with a “thank you” and a smile.
After the discussion of the chapter, the bell would ring to send them on their way to the next class. As I stood by the door wishing them a good day, so many thanked me, gave an extra big smile (I think to comfort me – even though I was okay by then), and asked me if I was okay. One young man told me that he didn’t want to read the book anymore because it made me sad. We talked about all of the lessons that we can learn from the book even though it is sad. All of the kids realized the power of a book. All of the kids could not wait to read the next chapter on Wednesday (today).
The human side of teaching might be (at least in my opinion) the most important side of teaching children. Of course, I want all of them to excel at reading and writing, but I also want them to find comfort in a classroom of learning. I want them to know I am human.