As an English teacher at a small, rural high school, it is my job to help students gain the skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening that will help them to be successful in the world outside of the classroom’s walls. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is only a small facet of my job.
What do we do when students don’t have those skills? How do we help them to fill in the gaps in their learning? How do we teach our students to learn in an age where they have instant access to information on the Internet, but lack the critical thinking skills needed to make sense of that information?
How do students learn to interact with others when their conclusions about the same information differ? What about when they lack the social skills or emotional maturity needed to navigate the world?
What do we do as teachers when our students have no food or running water at home and can’t concentrate on school because they have other pressing concerns on their minds? How can we teach the value of education when it seems irrelevant to their lives? How do we meet our students where they are and show them where they can end up?
These are questions I ask myself constantly. I wish I had a solid answer for any of these. I don’t. What works for me and my students may not work for someone else, but this is my space for processing these questions as they apply to me, my kids, and our interconnected lives. In John Donne’s Meditation XVII, he writes that “No man is an island, entire of itself.” While we are all unique, we cannot stand alone; we do not exist in isolation. The hardships we face and the lessons we learn can help not only ourselves, but can provide insights, hopefully, for others facing similar circumstances. It is my hope that in sharing my experiences, others might provide their own insights and suggestion in the spirit of community and interconnectedness. Thank you for being a part of this journey!