I teach in the Midwest in a kind of big school with a kind of abnormal population. The crew that I work with on the reg are innovative with their lessons, creative with their budget, and they stand ready every single day to laugh. They range in ages from 25-40, and they are hands down - lights out - some of the best teachers in the state. They are a force. MY force. Together, we've started a whispered chant - we can do better - and every single day? That's what happens. Continued self improvement. Continued crew improvement. Continued school improvement. I'm not even sure how it happened.
I think about my early years of teaching often. (Can I say that if I've only been doing it for eleven years?) THIS is what I would say to me ... ten years ago:
There are things that your Methods class has sadly left out. So many things. Little things like the phrase "budget freeze" or the whole "how to deal with lice in your junior class" thing. There are big things, too. Like how to deal with the student teacher that kicks the copy machine over and over because he's so mad that the one thing that should actually work, isn't actually working - just like his lessons, his students, or his car. Like the thick veil of negativity that consumes a girl from mid-January to early March. Like the teachers that just lose their shit in October because early morning meetings bleed into monotonous days that dawdle into long nights of parent teacher conferences, IEPs, and a vacuous hole of grading mid-terms.
It'll still be okay.
You'll buy every single shirt that every single kid sells for every single fundraiser. Or every pot of cookie dough. Or every lollipop, or ... heaven help you ... every caramel chocolate bar (oh my goodness, don't ever say no to those because they are so good). You'll buy tickets to things you won't go to, you'll buy hideous wrapping paper, and you'll be the first in line to subscribe to twelve different magazines. And then you know what? You'll be the person at nine o'clock at night in the Dollar Tree buying every single green gingham border they have, six staplers (because magically, yours continue to break), and all of the Lysol wipes. ALL of the Lysol wipes. You'll stand with kids at parent's night whose parents just don't show. You'll get so damn excited at district wrestling one year that you will actually jump up and down in the stands with the parents ... even though you have no idea what's going on.
And for some reason? You'll be happy to do it.
You'll have to keep up with every "my dog died", with every "my grandma is sick", with every "my girlfriend broke up with me," with every single mother loving, "I'm just so tired." In the beginning, you'll make notes on a pretty chart for every one of your 145 kids, but then you'll abandon the chart because there is just. too. much. You will realize that kids carry just. too. much.
And then you'll start to carry it, too.
You will try every single new piece of technology that you can. You will (partially) master Google docs, start a district-wide Twitter revolution on a worksheet at a conference with your principal, and you will stand up in front of your peers and present at another conference about why 1:1 with iPads was a ridiculously good decision.
And then you will realize that all of the technology in the world just doesn't matter sometimes.
You will do all of these things you never thought - you will learn to apologize with a clear, strong voice. You will quickly learn that you are often not the smartest person in the room. And you will grow attached. It will surprise you just how attached you will become. Long after they are gone, you will still think of them as your own, and you will still root for their successes.
And you will be so proud.
You will stand in your classroom like an ump on some days. Sometimes, you'll have to tear your mask off, chew your gum hard, and stare down the pitcher for throwing balls too close to the hitter. Or? When they clear the benches? You'll actually be the one to pull them apart. That will actually happen. You will be called every single name in the book and in multiple languages. Your door will slam so hard the glass window will rattle.
And you will realize - and it will take awhile - you will realize that those are the kids that need the most. The most love. The most attention. The most.
There will be Days. Big ones. Days that you gather your things, reach to shut off your light, and instead rest your forehead on the wall and think to yourself that you should've been a nurse. Or a graphic designer. Or a fry maker at McDonald's. Anything - and I do mean anything - other than the girl that "unpacks standards," the girl that rides cold buses in January to basketball games, or the girl that yells down the hallway, "HAPPY WEDNESDAY," while giving high-fives to kids with flu-like symptoms. Days that you will be burned out from words like "high poverty," "high minority," and "low functioning."
It'll all work out, though.
All of it.
Because there will be amazing success stories from kids that will come back and tell you about Their Days Beyond. And you know what? Their Days Beyond will include Marines that will call you ma'am, welders that make you things that you don't understand but you keep forever anyway, hair stylists, early ed teachers (that will literally rock. their. jobs.), English teachers, writers, nurses, scientists, eye doctors. A new generation.
And then you will realize.
Moulding the new generation?
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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