Although teachers may have varying opinions about the role they play in the lives of children and youth, those who have taught for awhile agree that tremendous sociological implications are inherent in the endeavour of public education.
Teachers graduate from university believing that all they have to do is get learner objectives out of the program of studies and into students’ heads, but within the first few hours of their first assignment, they realize that this task becomes clouded by the harsh tonic of living out the human experience in a unique community.
I remember meeting a Grade 2 teacher who maintained a “proper and professional distance” from her students. Everything was going well until a young male student got cancer. The teacher’s lofty ideology disappeared, as C.S. Lewis said, “Like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.”
The teacher got wrapped up in the drama that was unfolding in this boy’s family, and she became a regular visitor to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, in Edmonton. Along with his family, the teacher rode the emotional rollercoaster that runs when fate behaves most cruelly. The child survived his ordeal, but his childhood experience left an indelible mark on all the adults who shared in it. The teacher learned that the parameters of professionalism can easily become blurred, and she was forced to redefine her philosophy of teaching. I hope that none of us will ever have to deal with such a circumstance, but most of us have been affected emotionally by students during our teaching journey.