Being a good teacher means a lot of things. Good teachers have a couple of traits in common, passion for the subject matter as well as caring for students’ lives. It goes beyond just a job, it is personal. There are a myriad of things that will trigger concern for your students. Failing grades, absences or unexpected lateness, or changing personalities.
Remember the expression about the road to hell?
You can’t help everyone.
That care for students can cut both ways. Caring for students gives a sincerity and a fire that they will recognize and appreciate. Students will try more for someone who will try for them. Caring also can be a ticket to neuroses and burnout, if you start to feel ineffective. The downside of things can be worry, and while it is useful to identify what/who needs your attention it is also good to have boundaries.
It would seem that “not caring” would be a solution, but then you lose a valuable tool. But this is one of the paths to burnout… you don’t always get a choice in what you feel, and trying to divorce yourself from care isn’t really an option. Giving up on the students just reinforces the underlying feelings of ineffectiveness.
So how do you solve the conundrum of caring for students? The only way out, is through! Caring is only the first step on the road. Communication and action are the next steps… which empowers both the teacher and the student. Working on solving the problems (above and beyond how to “solve for x”) is good.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Who does? Well, being a good teacher also means being a good researcher. And someone who can interpret and guide people to the appropriate resources. If the student has some ideas already in mind, even better. A lot of the time students have ideas but no idea how to follow through. Whether it is support or accountability, teachers can provide.
And I like getting thank you letters from students who got into the schools they wanted, or passed their class even when they lost their house, or …. whatever.
You can’t help everyone, but you can help a few. And being able to reach out to those few will relieve the worry. You aren’t powerless.
Teachers are always in the fight.