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Priorities

If I had walked into the classroom and behaved in the typical teacher mode, no-one would have been able to recognize me. Because we all have our own methods, modes and manners, there probably is no “typical” except for the one posited by teacher textbooks.

Just for comparison, these characteristics include unfaltering patience and understanding. Miss Typical Teacher is soft-spoken, supportive and always cheerful. She is always punctual,  immaculate and the quintessential role model.

Her sunny disposition is facilitated by model students. They never talk out of turn, they turn in  homework with all correct answers. And they all say, “please” and “thank you.”

Happily, I will never be described as typical. While I am eternally working on classroom patience, instructing a student to do math and hearing, “I don’t want to” will frustrate most of us. But the recalcitrant, belligerent students aren’t the greatest challenge. It’s the quiet, secluded ones who need the greatest amount of love and attention.

In these cases, I need to be the mother who may be abusive or absent. Or I need to be the leader who assures them that their work is exceptional and worthwhile. Sometimes I need to be a pair of ears to listen for issues at home or with classmates. Every day, I look my students in the eyes and communicate that their needs are my priority.

None of these are in my how-to book but some of them make me cry. All of them make me atypical, a type that all of my kids want. They don’t teach us that every student needs to be taught in his or her own speed, style and emotional level. Thankfully, the students teach me what they need, and I am grateful for the wisdom to listen. Shalom.

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