I have the pleasure of being the Science National Honor Society sponsor at my high school. As the sponsor, I arrange trips for the students to engage in community projects. Some of those projects involve students teaching elementary school kids about science. Some of the projects involve the students pulling weeds in order to help native habitats. And some of the project require students to interact with grad students in order to learn more about science. In all of those projects, I’m super proud of my students.
Today, I took about 20 students to ASU to hear presentations from grad students at the Institute of Human Origins. The grad students walked my high school students through the basics of human evolution. Then they asked my students to arrange a set of skulls from oldest to newest. My wonderfully fantastic students were not only able to put skulls in a mostly correct order, they were able to justify why they chose that order in the first place. And their reasoning was sound. Given what they knew and what they just learned, they were able to work together and solve the problem. They impressed me and the two grad students who were leading them through the lesson.
It’s easy to become jaded when you teach. You see a lot of students who give up, who don’t challenge themselves, who don’t try hard, who don’t leave their comfort zone. It’s easy to think that they are lazy and stupid and that the future is doomed. It is easy to give up on humanity and turn your back on the younger generation. Then you see students work together to solve a problem. You see them think it through and put thought into their decisions and take each other’s opinions and critics in order to accomplish a goal. And you realize: things are not doomed. There are smart students out there, smart young people who will go on to be smart adults and contribute their knowledge to the collective good of humanity. They talk about their future with such optimism in their voices and in their eyes. They are excited about college and learning and becoming better.
It’s easy to forget that not all of them will become parents at 15 and work at McDonald’s for the rest of their life. I’m glad I get to see those students who will really change the world. It makes my remember why I want to be a teacher. Why I want to stay a teacher and inspire students to continue their education. I’m glad I get to be their sponsor and see them use their skills to solve problems.