Student Residue: What Our Students Leave Behind

On my short journey home following a trip to Target recently, hunger caused me to stop at Burger King.  After having some bad experiences at Drive-Thru windows, I’m a go-inside kind of guy.  So, I parked, and walked inside as the late afternoon sun beat down upon my balding head.  Despite not knowing entirely what I wanted to order, I stepped up to the counter.  As I started to order, the counter worker who couldn’thave  been much older than 20, asked me, “Do you do that thing with your fingers often when you think?”  I was of course caught off-guard by her direct question.  But then I realized to what she was referring.  Without realizing it, I will often tap my fingers to my thmb in quick succession.  While I generally do it to calm myself, I also do it while thinking without even noticing.  This was one of those moments.  So, I quickly addressed her question and told her how this strange behavior came to fruition.

A few years ago, a student in my class did the same thing.  He would touch his fingers to his thumb.  He did it while thinking, talking, or working.  It seemed very strange to me.  While I never asked him about it, I realized that it was a coping mechanism he clearly learned to keep him focused and calm.  Over the course of the year, I found myself picking up this behavior.  I now find myself doing it a lot.  It keeps me calm and focused while thinking.  Had this student not been in my class, I probably would not have added this strange behavior to my repertoire.  Is this good or bad?  Well, I suppose it’s better than the shaky leg thing I used to do.  My wife hates when I do that.  “Stop shaking the house,” she’ll say.  This doesn’t seem to annoy or irritate anybody.  So, I guess, this adaptation has helped me.  So, thanks, Charlie, for infecting me with your weird behavior.  I love it.

Our students teach us many things on a daily basis.  Occasionally, though, they leave something behind within us.  Perhaps it might be a word, phrase, or in this case a behavior.  Not only does it continue to remind us of them, but it also reminds us how important our students are to us.  Teaching isn’t a profession or job, it’s a lifestyle.  We teach to learn more.  I love engaging my students in conversation to learn about their lives, where they’re from, and what they know.  It’s amazing how awesome our students are.  Sometimes I wonder who the “real” teacher is, me or them?


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