Next to being a Christian, wife, and mother, my favorite role is teacher. Although my place is at home with my kids right now, I miss it, and I often reminisce on the almost ten years I spent in the classroom.
When you’ve taught kids from 8 years old all the way to 18, like I have, your style in the classroom needs to be flexible. You can’t expect the same things from an elementary student you do from a kid in high school. However, two things always remained the same regardless of the age or subject I was teaching, and I consider them THE most important ingredients to not only fulfill you as an educator, but your students as well. My motto?
Teach kids, not subjects, and laugh while doing it.
Yes, teaching the academics our state mandates is a responsibility as an educator, but, in my opinion, drilling them on iambic pentameter shouldn’t be at the expense of teaching important social skills and getting to know them as individuals.
Students need to know the meaning of acceptance and adopt kindness as a virtue. They need to know what it means to defend themselves and others respectively. They need to know how to help themselves and others along the way. They need to know where the high road is and how taking it makes you stronger. They need to know how work ethic earns your rewards, not intelligence. Hey educators, in more cases than we want to realize, they need YOU to teach those things. They need YOU to love them.
Your class could be the only positivity they see in a day, so make it count.
I admit, I’m totally guilty of the complaints common among educators. I’ve been there, said that. How is it possible to create an engaging lesson everyday that caters to all learning abilities when you have the stresses of teaching and test scores breathing down your back? Five students in a class of 37 turned in their homework assignment. FIVE!
Wait, you have a class of thirty seven?! The lesson you spent days, not hours, DAYS planning and had such high hopes for completely bombed. Oh, you spent some of your own big teacher bucks for the supplies, too. You can’t find your granola bar, which is all you’ll have time to eat all day. Oh, there it is, under that stack of ungraded papers that weighs more than Godzilla.
Exhaustion is an understatement the morning you spill coffee on your white pants, which is the same day you have to teach MLA documentation. You can’t even look good doing it.
I’m sorry, I didn’t know I had to be a freaking SUPERHERO when I signed on for these long hours and low pay. Why do I even try? It’s not making a difference.
Oh, but it is.
If you teach for the kids and not for the MLA formatting skills, it is. Getting to know your students and what makes them tick takes some hard work and investigation, but
IT IS SO WORTH IT.
If your care, protection from ridicule, and strong desire to witness their successes is genuine in your heart and in their eyes, you’ve won them.
They may rather get throat punched than learn MLA formatting, but they’ll do it. They’ll do it because you’re the one teaching them, and you took the time to show you care before you brought out those note slides.
Teach them the importance of caring by caring for them.
It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s drop dead gorgeous when young people begin to pour care and kindness into one another. That’s my absolute favorite, and this domino effect does happen. I’ve been lucky enough to witness it in some incredible kids.
So, when you’re beaten down and exhausted, don’t forget what/who you’re fighting for as a teacher.
When all you want to do is give in from frustration, remember who may regard you and your class as their reason to continue.
Don’t ignore the boy who interrupts you 356 times in one lesson. Maybe his parents ignore him, too. Remember the girl who seems to have it all together because, I promise you, she doesn’t, and it might not be her fault.
Always be there for the football player whose dad puts so much pressure on his performance on the field that everything else in his life seems obsolete. The girl who just tested positive on a pregnancy test and fears disownment from her father, give her your shoulder and ear for even just a little while before she breaks the news. She came to YOU, after all.
Pay mind to the one everyone else, including you, thinks is so annoying. He’s fighting hard to get noticed for a reason. For that ten year old who yearns for his mother’s attention, but she only responds to the bad behavior, be his support when he sings and dances in the school program.
Don’t forget the one teased about her sexuality, for she is feeling dangerously alone. Give that seventeen year old who works two jobs after school to pay her parent’s rent and grocery bill for younger siblings an extension on that assignment. She’s tired, and she’s having to grow up way beyond her years.
Compared to some kids, we teachers have it easy, wouldn’t you say?
Sadly, I’ve faced, firsthand, every situation above and more in my short time as a teacher. They are just kids, and I love them.
Yes, if you sign on as a teacher, you damn well be that superhero. Be their superhero. Even if they drive you crazy at times and turn you gray before your 30th birthday, be their superhero. You and I both know you don’t teach for that massive salary, so I’ll say it again.
Be their superhero.
On a lighter note, be funny in the classroom. Glide across your room from door to computer “M.C. Hammer” style just because. It’s the best way to take attendance. Record an audio reading of Animal Farm of yourself using absolutely RIDICULOUS voices for the different animals and play it instead of having them read to themselves. I mean, make Squealer SQUEAL.
One of my prior coworkers, who was great at building rapport, used to wear a wig the first few days of school to throw off the kids. Their faces the day he removed it like it was no big deal…epic. It caught the kids’ attention and was the beginning of an unforgettable relationship with his students, I’m sure. A dadgum wig started that, y’all. That’s awesome.
The kids eat up your “lack of coolness” because you’re old.
Well, older than them. You’re not old…unless you don’t believe in humor.
So, trip over something a few times and cluck like a chicken out of nowhere. Clear the desks out of the room and let them think comfortably. Be silly, fun, memorable, and creative as long as you can bring them back to their academic responsibilities, too. If the ridiculousness ties to the lesson, which was always my goal, it’s an even bigger plus. Don’t just teach, make memories.
When my babies are older, I would love to return to the classroom and continue making memories. Thus far, I am honored to have had as teachers and gotten to work with such creative, compassionate, unbelievable educators who are above and beyond workers. I’m blessed to know each and every one of you. You know who you are.
To all my prior students, younger and older, you are the reason. I love each and every one of you.
So, teachers, what are you waiting for?
That white pant coffee stain is washable, and you can sleep on Christmas break. Strap on your cape, you rockstar, teacher you.