March 15, 2016
Teachers Talk - Value Over Success
Venessa Brenya, Teacher, Curtis Horne Christian School, Regina, SK

"Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value." Albert Einstein
As a new teacher, I was so adamant about succeeding that whenever a situation surfaced in the classroom, I would shut it down immediately. Being successful had been engraved in my mind since childhood and I had no room for errors. But during my first year of teaching, my idea of success was altered in a significant way. I had read case studies such as: Student “A” would invariably skip days of school, come to school without school supplies, have homework not completed, and would often fall asleep in class. What would you do as a teacher? And I read many more such things while preparing for my career as a teacher. I thought I had all the answers until it started happening to me.

For a while, I wondered what was going on, and when I asked my student if everything was okay, the answer was, of course, “Yes, everything is fine.” But as time went on and the problems continued, I began to lose faith in my ability as a teacher. Was my level of compassion towards my student so deplorable that he couldn’t trust me?

For a long time, I was frustrated as my class was constantly interrupted.  I felt that I would have to go back to re-teach a lesson because student “A” had missed it. I wondered about the parents, “Doesn’t this parent want their child to succeed in life?” This is a question that normally results with a “yes” answer when asked to the average person. However, as things progressed, the thought of a parent wanting their child to fail began to dawn on me.

I became more irritated when the parents would constantly meet with me and not be honest with me. However, being frustrated at this particular student for missing classes, not showing up on time or falling asleep in class was not helping the situation. I had to learn the hard way that students do not choose their parents and neither does the teacher.

The truth is that not every parent is supportive of their child. If I may be so bold, some even rejoice when the school bus pulls up to pick them up. When I was doing my practicum, I remember a parent once saying “I don’t know how you guys deal with my son, because I’ve given up on his crazy behavior.”

One quote that I love is by Henry B Adams and it’s when he says “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” As a teacher, I have to support the student. I decided to bring the positive influence into their life. I’m a teacher because of the love and compassion a particular teacher had towards me. I thank God for revealing that to me during this situation.

Why are you a teacher? Why do you get up every morning and do what you do? Is it to become a successful person or a person of value who contributes to society? I had to be the beacon in this child’s life if no one else was willing to be. I had to be the beacon just like Christ is a beacon for me. And I thank God constantly for opening my eyes to see this reality. Instead of being irritated and frustrated, I looked for ways to help this child. Clearly, he was under stress at home and I had to get him to enjoy school again. I had to get him to understand that he was a person of value. I praise God that it’s getting better. And I hope I can continue to be a beacon in society and not just my classroom.