Educators wear many hats
I am a teacher, a clinical coordinator, a clinical instructor, a registered nurse and a mentor.
I am also an advisor to the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Local Chapter, a member of its New York State Board of Trustees and coordinator of the New York State HOSA 2012 Fall Leadership Conference.
I have the honor and pleasure to teach young adults, juniors and seniors in high school. I teach them to provide care for those who are unable to care for themselves. I take students without job skills in to the classroom and then onto nursing homes and hospitals. I teach them to care for the elderly.
I show them how to respect themselves. They are encouraged to work harder than they have ever worked before. They are taught to provide comfort, compassion and empathy as they work with their patients.
I tell them how very proud I am of their accomplishments. They are taught how to be proud of themselves and how to share their pride with others. They learn that hard work pays off in many rewards.
I listen to student concerns, happiness, sadness and grief. I allow students to express their emotions freely and I support their dreams and help them to overcome their fears.
I nominate my students for everything I am aware of that they may qualify for. The program pushes them to be the best they can be.
Students are taught how to provide personal care skills in a classroom lab before going to local facilities. They are also taught the “human side” of health care. This helps the student to communicate and to understand the patients they are caring for. The human side helps students to learn to grieve and to celebrate a life when they lose a patient, family member or a friend.
Leadership is a big part of the program. Leadership skills will help to make the student employable and successful in both life and in the job market. HOSA helps the class members to achieve these skills.
I spend countless hours preparing lessons, presenting lessons, correcting assignments, setting up practice sessions, finding money for the students to buy their clinical uniforms and shoes, finding money to feed a hungry student, finding money to pay for an additional text, searching for books on tape, reading to students, finding items students need.
I work after hours to request financial assistance and or supplies from administration, local colleges, local businesses, local professionals, facilities who may have excess supplies — anyone who will listen to me. I work hard to assist the students assigned to my class to help them to become the best they can be.
As long as I am able, I will continue to jump those hurdles if it means making the difference in the life of just one child.
Eighteen months ago, I received a phone call that no teacher wants to ever receive. One of my students had died and would not return to class. I was numb. I did not know how to respond. I had to keep it together to tell the other students about the loss. It was the worst day of my teaching career.
Everyone cried; everyone held onto one another. We talked and made a plan. We attended the calling hours together. The students created a memory book for the parents. We proudly wore the t-shirts and hoodies designed by our lost student. This was the most difficult lesson for all to learn. Death does occur to young people.
We created a memory garden to heal and to honor our lost classmate. Everyone was invited to help create the garden. Our welding class created a sculpture, conservation class helped build a picnic table and prepared the garden Vendors donated the plants and mulch. As the soil was turned over and the plants were placed, the healing began.
I am not alone in trying to provide the best possible education for our students. There are hundreds of excellent teachers across New York state who dedicate themselves to the well-being of the students they teach.
I work with fabulous teachers who want to make a difference for the students assigned to them. Many of my colleagues go the extra distance to reach out to their students; clerical staff work extra hours to support the students in reaching their dreams; some staff who help with the after-school projects and say "nice job;" administrators who care enough to come to the after-hour fundraisers and functions and who take the time to tell a student they are proud of them; school nurses and support specialists who will stop what they are doing because the student needs to talk with them or has a question.
New York teachers are dedicated to educating the young adults who enter our classrooms. Teachers wear many hats, not just that of a teacher. Teachers are making a difference in the lives of our children.
(Bonita Shelby is a member of NYSUT’s local at the Genesee Valley BOCES.)