Saturday, August 28, 2010

Someone's Thomas

My teaching has changed since becoming mom. There is no doubt about that. And in a word, it would be that I have become gentle.  [Don't ask my students. They would argue otherwise. Really.]

There are two ways to motivate students. No. There are two ways to motivate anyone: Fear or Love

Everyone knows what it is to be motivated by fear. Don't miss a utility payment -- someone might turn off your electricity.  Turn in your assignment or you will receive a zero. Do what is expected as my child or I will not speak to you.  Fear traps us between a rock and a hard place, leaving us often in a situation to do what is asked but developing a poor relationship with the person and/or a negative understanding of that experience if it is only fear with which we feel motivated.

But to be motivated by love? This is altogether different. How many of us feel motivated in a way that is encouraging and life-illuminating, in a way that makes us feel whole and free to do so. And how do you motivate students to love literature [or history or math and so on]?

Well, that's not really the only question we have to worry about. It is this first: How do you teach to each individual student? For, the student who feels he/she matters is the student who feels that your subject area might. .... or does!

And this is how I feel when a student approaches my desk, raises her hand, answers a question, shares his prediction, listens to me:

 You are someone's Thomas. [or Thomasina]

You have a story, an experience, a life much greater [to you] than what I teach. And while I will wrap you in English for 50 minutes [and not one minute less] and expect from you great achievements and no excuses, I will look at you and see someone's Thomas.

I vow to respect my students, to show them what it means to matter, to be patient, understanding, and gentle. All while being firmly structured in a practice of sharing with them the great conversation we should all feel compelled to take part in: Literature!

And when I pause from the debate, the questioning, the directions -- they don't realize I'm in absolute awe that there are 21 miracles looking back up at me.


  1. Great post! I LOVE, LOVE. You are an incredible woman!

  2. What a neat reflection. I didn't think you could be more observant and introspective, but Thomas has proven me wrong. :)

  3. I'm a teacher, too, and this is a beautiful post!!!!

    I find it to be true in parenting books, too- though from a slightly different angle- the total depravity of sin verses grace-filled parenting. It's so interesting and has me thinking!