“(Kids) don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
So who are we? Are we teachers or counselors? This question jumped off our list to me immediately. This question was me and my job in special education. I was hired as a teacher and I am paid to teach. So what do I do? I teach, I counsel and I counsel some more, some days I even counsel more. The teaching becomes secondary in my field as I try to help students find their feet in the world. I walk into the classroom of my first period each day, where a young man with Autism sits near the door, and the first skill of the day is just saying “Good Morning.” When he started to reply, saying “Good Morning” back, I kept it that simple for a week before I added, “How are you today?” We’re working our way toward more. If I was only interested in teaching I would just head to my desk and dig out the lesson plan for the day, but my lesson already started and it wasn’t on paper either.
Looking at our generative list I went to Freire for the Classroom and looked at page 40 as noted. Having read the chapter a week before I had highlighted two things on the page, one of which was the sentence about the nurturing process, the second thing I’d highlighted was “the teacher can step back from the discussions as student project their experiences”. We need to nurture and sometimes that means stepping back and listening. We can learn as much from our students as they can learn from us and always what we learn from them should be used in our plans to make us better teachers. If we can offer a transfer of power in the classroom we can offer life lessons that are much influential than the basic skills. In the “Open Letter to Bahamian Men” the students were given the power to transform their lives because someone did more than teach, they counseled and they listened. Presenting information in class isn’t teaching, but presenting opportunities for learning allows students to internalize and lower their own defenses. As the students take more responsibility in their learning, they grew to trust in themselves. Do we just want the student to be neutral sponges that just absorb what we spout? No! We should work to reveal a student’s “hidden voice” according to Wallerstein so that we can uncover the blocks to learning. If we can discover the blocks, break them down, or climb over them, we’ve done much more than teach.
When Kermit sings “It’s not easy being green” he is accepting himself and saying it wasn’t easy but here I am. Jim Henson was both a teacher and a counselor to multiple generations, disguised in red fur or green felt. He once said, “I cannot say why I am good at what I do, but I can say I work very hard at it...Perhaps one thing that has helped me in achieving my goals is that I sincerely believe in what I do, and get great pleasure from it. I feel very fortunate because I can do what I love to do".
Although I personally don’t go home every day and think, “Wow I loved my job today” because some days it wears me out; I can go home each day and say “It’s not an easy job, but I lived my beliefs and values today because I did more than teach.”