I will miss you guys.
I was inspired after reading a post by teacher, coach, and writer, Chase Mielke, called What Students Really Need to Hear. He says, look, I know you might think school is pointless right now, but there will be main events in life that you will not be able to ignore so you might as well start with school. I’m going to discuss his piece, then give you mine… Now, before I graduate on Thursday, and before you are no longer my participants.
Mielke articulates how the curriculum is NOT the main event, but he uses his classroom as a microcosm to how students set themselves up to face adversity in the real world. He worries that his students are preparing themselves to give up when real life gets difficult; when they need to take charge of fear and doubt to conquer the true “main event”.
His piece is not an attack on the system, nor is this the best approach for all students by any means, but this IS one teacher taking accountability for his particular students. The ones he interacts with everyday and has made connections with. To this teacher, each student’s success could not possibly be measured by a grade. One of my former professors recently blogged about this– about making connections with students; being a transformative teacher. Dr. Enszer writes:
I want students to experience at the end of the semester that my class has transformed their thinking and their mode of engagement in the world AND (equally important), in twenty or thirty years when they reflect back on their undergraduate education, they believe that their work in my class was transformative and an important component of shaping their life work.
This aligns with Mielke’s wish– the classroom has potential to be a place where real change happens. In Dr. Enszer’s class, Theories of Feminism no less, I learned to take my thoughts and ideas seriously. Even when they came out as a hot mess of intersectional jargon (I mean, it’s feminist theory) I felt respected, and heard. I showed up because my presence meant something to the class as a whole. I met amazing, interesting, and smart, students that I never would have engaged with if not for the space Dr. Enszer created.
Mielke is not out to make reality any less harsh, or conceal the injustices students face to get by– If the education system’s purpose was to produce well-adjusted adults I don’t think he’d lose nearly as much sleep stressing about his class.
Instead he offers another idea; the way his students behave towards school, in many ways, parallels how they’ll face adulthood. He sees school as an opportunity for students to learn how to not quit on themselves even if school goes horribly wrong because the “main event” here is adversity. And at some point, everyone needs someone to say I believe in you. Unconditionally.
…As long as you are in my life, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you. I am going to challenge you, confront you, push you, and coach you. You can whine. You can throw a tantrum. You can shout and swear and stomp and cry. And the next day, guess what? I will be here waiting — smiling and patient — to give you a fresh start. Because you are worth it. –Chase Mielke “What Students Really Need to Hear”
I endeavor to be that instructor for my participants.
Yes, sometimes I cannot stand that instructor– the one who says keep going and smiles when you’re beyond done trying and are SO over it. But, whatever man, for this one hour you made it here so please let me ramble about technique, force you all to count out-loud in intervals while doing squat presses, and I hope you leave with pride– because you should.
I’ve learned that despite all the awkward eye contact, like right before the bicep track when a participant is holding the bar the wrong way there’s only so many times I could insist UNDERHAND GRIP– UNDERHAND GRIP– NO, NOT YOU, YOU, it’s worth it. Because you guys showed up, and you are worth it.
Do I always know what to say? No. But I do know how to teach this weight training class to anyone and everyone who wants to learn. I will tell sub-funny esoteric jokes to lighten the mood when it’s almost 11pm and everyone’s tired. Let me point out that at 11pm (on a Monday night no less) 45 of you people came to work out with me. Seriously? Do you know how difficult that is?
I don’t. Technically I have to be there. So, let me remind you ad infinitum how much I appreciate YOU for coming and just how strong each one of you are. Thank you. Thank you for coming and for coming back, for doing pushups when I say to, and for smiling back even though you might have every reason not to.
You were there on nights that I was overwhelmed with school, and nights when it wasn’t school, and just, thank you; I messed up choreography and forgot to demonstrate moves but you guys trusted me anyway. And I know school and not-school will happen to all of you. Whether I am aware of it or not, it’s okay, YOU are okay. The entire time.
I will continue to challenge all of you to the best of my ability and view your potential as limitless; just like you all have done for me.
By listening to you guys– I hear your stories, and I know it takes a ton of courage and strength to show up, and you have it. You express fears– what if someone sees me? And you know what, they just might, it’s a big university but it’s not that big. And I wish I could make that self conscious disappear. I want to thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone to be part of something great.
For those of you who stretched yourselves to get here and be part of our class you inspire me more than you know. I’m inspired by you to stretch myself in times when I’m scared or self conscious– to witness you do it every week is a blessing.
If you all didn’t show up the weights wouldn’t run out. Especially the 7.5 lb ones. Those weights ran out because you are stronger than you were before you started; we all are.
Keep showing up guys. Stay in touch. I am here for you. As always– thank you, and I hope you had nearly as much fun as I did.