It is truly bittersweet. Part of me is so dang excited to sleep in, babysit my niece, travel and sit beside the pool all day. The other part of me has been a little choked up all week. Because, I'll miss my buddies. A whole, whole lot.
I told them today that they were my favorite class. Ever. And, as much as I've loved every single class I've ever had, I've never said that to a group of kids. So, I mean it. I really do.
I can't believe this was my eighth year to be a teacher. If you're new to this profession, I just want to warn you. It goes by in the blink of an eye. And, it seems every single year like the years get shorter. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun!
So, I just thought it would be fun to share tonight a little bit of what I've learned in eight short years of being a teacher.
These are the things I would tell myself if I could go back in time to my first year of being a teacher...
1. Every single year, you'll have "that kid".
You know what I mean. The one kid who tries your patience to the point where you think you're going to either cry or die. And, honestly, you're lucky if you have just one! Ha! Just accept that there will be one every year. And, you'll try a million things with this kid and about three weeks before the school year is over, you'll find the magic formula that seems to make this child finally buy in to what you're selling. You know I'm right. But, the good news? This child will grow on you. And, guaranteed they'll make you laugh.
2. It's not worth it to argue with parents.
I've been very blessed as a teacher that I've had very few run-ins with parents. But, one year, I had a kid whose dad would get SOOO mad about every little thing. And, I learned a very valuable lesson that year. Even if I thought he was being completely ridiculous, I just said "You know what, I'm sorry that happened. It won't happen again." And, he would always calm down and then it would be fine. I had another parent last year who was the same way. She had a reputation for giving teachers a really hard time. And, I think teachers got really defensive with her and then she got defensive and the situation always escalated. Here's what I know: you need that parent to be on your side. You have their child for a whole year and it will
Not be good for anyone if you aren't getting along. I'm not saying to be a complete doormat and let parents walk
All over you. I'm just saying that sorry goes a long way and nobody wins when you argue with a parent. Least of all the child.
3. Never, ever write on your report cards with an orange sharpie.
Trust me. Your principal will NOT be happy! (And, in my defense, it WAS a fine-tip and looked very pretty!)
4. Be involved.
Here's the thing. We're all busy. Everyone is busy. But, being a teacher is more than showing up from 7:45 to 3:15 on Mondays through Fridays. It's just as important to be at school events and PTO meetings and school performances. Because, not only do your students look for you at those events, but other teachers notice who comes to stuff and who doesn't. Believe me! They notice. And, when you don't participate in things, it makes it seem like teaching is "just a job" to you. And, maybe it is just a job. But, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I don't ever want anyone to say that it's just a job about me!!!
5. Remember why you're there.
This is a hard one. Because, we all know that when lots of women work
together, there is drama. And, a lot of it is passive aggressive and gossipy in nature. Not only that, but teaching isa stressful job that is deeply personal in a lot
of ways. I am completely at fault of letting things that were said in a team meeting or in the hallway effect the rest of my day in my classroom. It's hard to take your mind off something that you feel was hurtful or troubling. But, you have to remember why you're there. I think it's taken me eight years to get there, but I think I'm finally able to do this. No matter what is happening that stresses me out, I just go in my room, shut my door and teach my kids. Because they are the reason why I'm there. They come first.
6. Kids notice everything.
It's probably best to brush your hair and take a shower every day because, if you skip a day, they'll notice. I promise. They'll also notice if you gain a little weight, have messy handwriting, don't put your hand on your heart during the pledge, let another kid go to the bathroom, don't hang up a piece of their work or try to have a private conversation with a student who made a bad choice. But, luckily, they also notice when you paint your toenails a new color, when you're wearing earrings for the first time in months, when you got a new dress and when you don't feel good. They notice everything. Which is awesome, but is also an awesome responsibility!
7. When a kid comes out of the bathroom and yells "You're really not gonna' like this!!!" you should be afraid. Be very afraid.
8. Every single year, you'll change as a teacher. For the better.
I think back to my first year as a teacher and I can't even describe how differently I teach now. A few things are the same, I'm just better at them because I've been doing it a long time. But, for the most part, I've changed it all. Here are a few words I had never even heard of when I started out as a first grade teacher eight years ago that I use every single
day now: common core, Elmo (I used an overhead projector my first year!), intervention, Aimsweb, accountable
talk, SPI's (remember, I taught first!), anchor chart, Pinterest, Gradespeed, and project based learning. Nope. I just taught from the textbook. As in, each day, we did workbook pages in math. And, I threw in a few manipulatives here and there (probably wrongly) to tie it together. I don't even pass out the textbooks anymore. They literally sit on a shelf all year. It's just so different now. But, in a good way. I'm ten times the teacher I was eight years ago. I know that.
So, that's just a snippet of what I know as a teacher.
Here's what else I know...
Every single child that I've taught in the last eight years has made an impact on me. Omari taught me to laugh at my mistakes and my students. Kevin taught me to fight for my kids because I'm the expert on them. Marvin taught me that I have to push them and can't accept mediocre work. Zeke taught me patience. Lots and lots of patience. Andrea taught me how to motivate kids. Twice. Braylon taught me to set goals. Maria taught me that it's okay to cry when you're sad. Karla taught me that it's okay to smile when you're happy.
And, hopefully, I taught them some things, too.