So, I was told to listen to a podcast. I’m not too fond of podcasts typically, but we’ll see.
Today’s podcast comes from NPR’s series Stories Teachers Share, I listened to What Makes a Teacher Special to a Student (warning: literally the first two minutes is a list of groups/organizations that have supported the series, which is great and all, but not the goal of my listening today). I’m hoping this podcast gives me a little more insight into the mind of students.
This podcast starts as a rather strange telling of stories from Patrick Don in his middle school years.
At the end of the podcast we got to hear from the teacher that Patrick talked about in his stories, and it was really funny and touching. Patrick truly had a friend in his teacher, and I felt that the relationship they had is a crucial relationship for a lot of students, especially students like Patrick who were ‘loners’ and didn’t really have friends or acceptance from others his age.
This podcast really made me think about the relationships I had in school. I had always had ‘friends’ but I only really made a few close friends, even fewer of whom I am still connected with two years later. I thought about the teachers I had, and I am connected to a lot more of my past teachers than I am former students that I actually liked. Several of my former teachers I even go visit when I am home and school is in session, as well as being Facebook friends with them and chatting there on the occasion that we find something that reminds us of each other. So, looking back, my relationships with my teachers were also more important for me as a student.
Students need to know that they have someone on their side to support them and help them work through what they’re going through. Patrick needed acceptance and a friend, I too needed acceptance, but I needed someone I could connect with on an intellectual level. I never felt that my peers were on quite the same level as I was, and that made it harder for me to connect to them. Throughout high school all of my peers were more concerned with having fun, partying, and whatever drama they had going. I was never concerned with any of those things. I liked intellectual discussions, I wanted to talk about things deeper than why Girl A was being such a ‘slut’ (excuse my language) and why Girl B couldn’t keep her trap shut.
I suppose my teachers saw this need, but they also offered a lot of support I didn’t necessarily let them know that I needed. As a queer student I was very closeted in high school, I was closeted mostly by myself, but also, being raised in the Bible Belt of the south I was terrified to accept myself. But my teachers never passed any judgment to me, even though they didn’t particularly know what issue I was working through. When I say terrified, I mean terrified. Southerners are known to be particularly violent to anything that is different from them. And when after high school I started dating my current girlfriend I hesitated to tell my family, and never planned on telling my father’s side of the family for sure. I did tell my mom and I knew she would most likely be ok with it, but it’s still incredibly hard. My father was a completely different story. If you remember back to early July 2015, the marriage equality law was passed and they lit up the White House with rainbow lights. That night when my father saw this I was home for the weekend before taking a trip to D.C. with a school group I was apart of. He was irate. He yelled and carried on for over an hour about how gay people are an abomination to God and will rot in hell with rapists and perverts. At this point I had been dating my girlfriend for about a month, and everyone who knew were super happy that now people like me and her who are their friends can legally get married and acknowledged by the government. But my father had sealed his fate for me never telling him anything else about my life in that department. He knows now (thanks mom), and like the rest of my family, absolutely adores my girlfriend and me. So, almost two years later, here we are.
I guess the point of that personal story is that things do get better, and it all starts with the relationships we build when we are young and the relationships we maintain throughout our lives. And as an educator I hope that I can be a supportive and caring relationship for any student who needs it.