Monday, November 28, 2011

Today I was asked a question...

   It's a question I hear frequently:  do you miss your job now that you are retired?  I always say no.  And when I'm asked if I miss the kids, I still say, "no."  The first is definitely true.  I realized today that the second answer is and isn't true.  When I think of the kids I taught, it seems to me that the last few years I had more "difficult" or "challenging" kids to work with than not.  And I honestly don't miss those, I'm sorry to say.
   But the truth is that I don't miss the "sweet", idealistic kids either and I realized it's because I still have opportunities to work with kids.  I have the privilege of taking my niece to school once or twice a week and she is the same age as the kids I taught for so many years, definitely the type of student that every teacher wants to have.  I enjoy our morning detours by McDonald's and the neat things she has to say about her classes and about life in general.  (Thanks to her, I know who Avril Livigne is !!!)  Also, our son is still at home so I get to spend time with him and his friends as well, all of whom are college age and nice kids, enjoyable to be around.
   I also have the opportunity to mentor two elementary age students once a week which I thoroughly enjoy, much to my surprise; something I thought I would never like because my whole life has been geared towards teens.  But I love working with these two boys even though I just get to spend 30 minutes  with each one of them on Wednesday.
   And that also provides a key as to why I don't miss  teaching kids in the classroom.
   I never liked the disciplinarian part of my job and always struggled with kids who "copped an attitude".  Some teachers just take this in their stride and deal with it. I never could.  I always worried over whether I had done something (or omitted to do something) to bring the situation on.  I would always second-guess myself and aggressive kids sense that -it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  When you discipline a really tough kid, you have to come across as confident and tougher than they are, something I never could do.
    But even the troubled kids that I could "deal with", still bothered me. Why? Because  I couldn't change them.   I really, really hated to see them walk in with a boatload of problems and then see them walk out at the end of the semester with the same exact problems. That was especially true for those who were into drugs, bad relationships, and anti society in general.
   Many times, when I had a class with a high percentage of troubled (and troubling) kids, I just wanted to tell them they needed Jesus, pure and simple. I wanted to tell them to get their noses in the Bible and get into a good youth group and give God a chance to turn their lives around.  But you can't stand up and announce something like that in a public school and I fully understand why - I get that.  But still, I believed during my teaching years and  believe now, that Jesus is the only hope for really troubled kids.
  So I guess I'm saying, I don't miss working with kids because... for one thing, I still do!  Not as much and not as often, certainly. But in a way that works for me.  When I walk into the elementary school, I can pull out a 98cent ball from Wal Mart and the boys I mentor look at it like I've brought them pure gold.  They'll practically stand on their heads to get their math answers done so they can throw this little rubber ball around on the playground.  That doesn't happen on the high school level. Trust me.
   While I can't bring up religious issues with these boys, they can.  And if they bring it up, I can talk with them about it.  I don't have to work so hard to be politically correct for fear of being sued.
   And if they are in trouble, I don't have to be the one to make their lives miserable aka discipline.  Instead, I can talk quietly with them and ask them what they were thinking when they did what they did and also ask them if there is a better way to get what they want the next time temptation comes their way.
   I love one-on-one mentoring with elementary kids because it's non-adversarial and I feel these kids are still pretty impressionable.
   I feel like there's hope for them, more so than there will be 5 years from now when hormones have kicked in with a vengeance and their peers mean more to them than their parents do.
   So no, I don't miss teaching.
   And no, I don't miss the kids.
   Because in a way, I still have kids in my life.
   And I hope I always will.

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