I’m baaaaack. After nearly a year away, I am ready to once again start writing. It has been an incredibly chaotic year with many excellent happenings (weddings, true love, teaching the children, etc.) and a handful of not-so-good happenings, too (hospital visits, crushing uncertainty, job changes, etc.), but really I am just lazy. So I don’t really have a great excuse for not updating this other than the fact that Friends is now on Netflix, and every time I watch Parks and Rec, I tell myself I’m only going to watch one episode and then end up finishing half of a season.
This year has been a strange one at school. I am growing into myself as a teacher, most definitely. There is a lot less of the last-minute scramble to find something to fill my time and occupy my students and more meaningful learning. I am more confident and less likely to let the other teachers “guide” me (read: tell me what to do). I am not perfect, but I am growing. It is a process, not perfection.
And yet, with all of the improvement there has been this year, there has been a definite lack of passion. I think much of it has to do with the group of kids I have this year. Don’t get me wrong, they are good kids. They are. However, there has been more of a struggle with them. More apathy, more laziness, more bullying, and a lot less laughter and mutual understanding has made this year frustrating and sometimes exasperating.
But these kids have taught me in their own way. During many sleepless nights trying to solve the world’s problems (okay…battling heartburn from stress), I would think about these kids. I would wonder what the morning would bring and who would actually turn in their homework. I would think about the day’s challenges and be grateful for the experience (no matter how harrowing it was). I would silently cheer the day’s triumphs (of which there weren’t usually many) and hope for more the next day. And most of all, I would think about what I wish these students knew about their teachers.
So last year, whereas I wrote my students a letter that quietly apologized for my faults, this year I wish I could convey to these students what I wish they knew about me.
1.) I have bad days, too. I think too often, we expect the adults in our life to be invincible. They are supposed to have all of the answers and perhaps, most importantly, have everlasting patience with us. More than once my patience has run short this year. Not because you are bad kids. But you are kids. And kids can be frustrating. I can be frustrating. So please remember on the days you are frustrated with me (because I yelled or am expecting a lot from you), I have had those days where I am frustrated with you (because I have to talk over you and know you are capable of more than you put forth). I am only human, kiddos. Some days I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and am grumpy. Be gentle with me. I try the best I can to be gentle with you.
2.) I dislike standardized tests as much as you do. I am well aware of how stressful these tests can be. Believe it or not, they are stressful for me, too. They impact the amount of time I actually have to instruct you, and they make you all a little loopy (to put it mildly J). I think the time it that is required to take these tests only take away from your education, not add to it. So the next time you sit down to take one of these tests, don’t resent me. I am not the one choosing to do this to you. I am feeling the same frustrations as you.
3.) You are not your test score. I understand how demoralizing that number can be. Trust me; it doesn’t only reflect back on you, it is what is used almost solely to judge my competence as a teacher. So the enormity of that score is not lost on me. However, when I look at you, I don’t see a number. I see people – people who are talented at a myriad of different things. I see future actors, chefs, writers, teachers, doctors, engineers, mechanics, businessmen and women. I see good people. Your score says nothing about the kind of person you are. I take that number with a grain of salt, and so should you. Instead of striving to be a certain number, strive to be certain kind of individual: one who is honest, kind, and tries their best.
4.) If you would stop talking so much, you would be better learners. I get it. Sometimes I think (and joke) that I became a teacher simply for the fact that I get to hear myself talk. My family accuses me of this at least once a month. Talking is important. It makes you feel important and allows you to express your opinions and ideas to others. But how about you try this: The next time someone says something to you, instead of immediately launching in to your opinion or offering an anecdote on the subject, simply LISTEN. Give the other person a chance to impart their wisdom on you. Sometimes talking only breeds more ignorance. Learning how to listen is an incredibly vital skill, too. It is an art that I think is lost in this world where social media and Facebooking/tweeting/Instagramming things about ourselves has become the norm. And when I’m up at the front of the room talking, engaging in these pertinent listening skills is important too, because, more likely than not, I’m talking about your assignment for the day.
5.) My job is hard. And quite honestly, I think every job is presents its own challenges. So it upsets me when I hear you (or anyone) talk about how easy my job is because I get the summers off. During the eight to ten hours I spend at school during the day I am not just a teacher: I am a role model, a surrogate mother, a counselor, a planner, the calm of the storm, an assessor, a tour guide, a librarian. I am the greatest version of myself when I am with you. You bring out the best in me (and sometimes, admittedly, the worst). No one told me that there would be times I was so overwhelmed, I would cry on my way home in the car. No one told me that sometimes I would want to shake you, but most of the time I would want to hug you. No one told me that some days you would make me laugh so hard, I would have tears in my eyes. No one told me that sometimes I would be so worried about you, I would stay awake for hours at night, wondering what I could do to help. And no told me that this would be the hardest job I ever had, but also the most rewarding and humbling.
This is what I wished you knew.