Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Little Joys of Teaching Are Without Number

I've been teaching for about sixteen years now. Teaching can be a very rewarding career, but it's not often we get to hear back from a student who can specifically point out the things you taught that helped him or her. I use Facebook, and I have a lot of my former students as friends on there. Today I got a message from one that really made my day. No, my YEAR.

This student told me that in her biology class they're writing a research report, and they also did one recently in another class. The librarian had them in the computer lab and was going over search engines and research methods and ways it's okay and not okay to conduct research. My former student kept wondering why the librarian kept going on and on about things she (my student) thought everyone should know. Then she realized that her experience at Milpitas Christian School was why she already knew all this stuff. (My take on this: our staff are so consistent about making sure kids conduct honest, fair research -- and cite all those sources -- that our graduates leave our school truly ready to face these tasks in high school and beyond.)

My former student then went on to talk about how much MY class (technology) helped her and prepared her for all the work she does in high school. She told me she has classmates who don't know how to change margins in Word or even what Excel or PowerPoint are used for. When she was my student, she wondered what the point was to all the projects and assignments we made them do. But now things she takes for granted, believing everyone should know how to use them, are things she sees as having been very useful training. She thanked me profusely for what she learned from me in middle school, and she expressed how grateful she was to have all these skills to take with her into her future.

Of course it made me feel good to hear from a former student who is happy and successful in high school. But what made this especially wonderful for me is that it's pretty rare for a teacher to get such specific, enthusiastic feedback from students so soon after having them in class. Some of us teachers wait YEARS -- DECADES, even -- before we ever hear from our former students that we made a difference in their lives.

Now, this "difference" I made to this one student may not have been huge, but it reminds me that what I do here is important, has value for years to come, and is appreciated.

Like I said, it really made my day.