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Warriors of Hope…current and past students are my warriors

Christine Marsh Uncategorized

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Today in an interview, I was asked about my “best experience as a teacher so far.”

I was (and am) stumped. It’s not that I don’t have a “best experience” that has caused my stumptedness (that really should be a word); it’s that I have too many “best” experiences. I have come to the conclusion that the word “best” is problematic. It’s too narrow; it implies one, singular.

Nonetheless, I have tried to come up with one, with a “best” experience, and here it is:

The best experience I’ve had as a teacher is watching as my current students and ex-students advocate on behalf of others and/or on behalf of important issues that face our country. Granted, I am somewhat cheating, because many of my students and ex-students are advocating in some way on behalf of others, but I was at least able to group many experiences into one—the best.

In the past two weeks alone, I’ve seen two ex-students get articles published in a well-known magazine, both of which about the recent election. I’ve seen one student get elected to office, and I know for a fact that he will be pushing hard to protect people and resources in Arizona. I’ve seen current students go out of their way to push back against racism and homophobia—and other “isms” and “phobias.”

I’ve seen students and ex-students work on behalf of various candidates who were running for office. In fact, as I’ve gone to canvas or make calls on behalf of candidates, I’ve actually run into current and past students who were also volunteering. In fact, one of them, on behalf of a candidate, called me, but she didn’t realize it was me. “Hello,” I said into the receiver. “Ms. Marsh?!? Is that you?? I’m calling on behalf of so-and-so to make sure you vote….”

I’ve seen ex-students intelligently and insightfully advocate for candidates and issues on Facebook, which always makes me so proud. While a lot of my Facebook feed has been filled with vitriol and animosity, I’ve only seen productivity and solution-based posts from my ex-students. Granted, it might be that any of my ex-students who would post vitriol are simply not my FB friends, but I like to imagine that it’s because they’ve all become critical thinkers. I’m nothing if not idealistic, and idealism has served me well, so I’ll stick with it.

I’ve seen a generation of young people who make me proud. And, really, some of my ex-students are not so young anymore, so maybe I need to change that to “I’ve seen a few generations of people who make me proud.”

They give me hope for our country’s future, which is ironic because I’ve given a lot of speeches about hope; however, the speeches are always in terms of what teachers can (and should) give students. Hope is the single most powerful predictor of a student’s future success, more powerful than any combination of any test scores. In fact, hopeful students are 30 times more likely to succeed than their less hopeful counterparts.

But getting hope from students?…that’s the best experience a teacher can have. The best.

 

Christine Porter Marsh

Scottsdale, Arizona

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the lights go on in students’ eyes, watching them getting passionate about traditionally boring things like reading and writing well. This is why I keep coming back. I am in my 24th year of teaching in the same high school from which I graduated, and I still feel like it’s the best job in the world.

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  • Angelia

    Thank you so much for your thoughts around your greatest moment. It is amazing when we sit back and reflect on where are students are going. I hope my students have hope for themselves and for their future. I hope that when they start to doubt themselves, they remember that they had (hopefully) many many teachers who believe in them and love them. I see hope in their faces, I hope they see hope when they look in the mirror.

  • Donnie Lee

    This is always been a question that has stumped me as well. In an interview several months ago, I was asked to share ONE example about a lesson I learned from my students. In my head, I was screaming, “ONLY ONE?!” My head started spinning around all the lessons I learned over my career. I’m not sure I picked the best response but I landed on the one that had the most clarity in my head at that moment. Our students have so many milestones in their lives while they are in our care that it makes it hard to select one example as the “best.” Maybe a good answer to, “what is the best moment in your career?”, we should respond, “Oh that’s easy! The best moment is my whole career!”

    • http://www.leadfromINtheclassroom.com/ Jess Ledbetter

      Chris, great post–and Donnie, I’m totally going to respond that way if someone ever asks me! Love it!