The other day I caught myself thinking about the phrase “my students.”
We say it all the time. I quizzed my students twice last week. My students and I are going on a field trip. A few of my students always seem to come late to class. It’s ordinary and plain. We don’t even think twice about it. But this time I did.
Spurred by seeing former students in the hallway and new classes of students, the possessive pronoun “my” stood out to me this time. They are mine. Not literally, of course. But these young people who were once strangers are no longer distinct from me. They are mine. Our paths have crossed. I am now responsible for them. In the spirit of knowledge and personal growth, they are bound to me. They always will be. They are my students.
Thinking critically about this possessiveness is empowering. For me, it represents an extension of myself through my students. Who I am as a teacher — and as a person — will be duly represented in what we build together. I can ignore, but I cannot escape the metaphysical ownership I have over this situation. How I plan, teach, and learn about them will be reflected in our shared successes and failures. To think about this gives me great pride. It also affects me when it comes to non-teaching matters like how I speak to them and think about them and work to relate to them. Yes, rethinking the word “my” when it comes to my students contributes to a greater, more attentive investment in my students and myself.