Teaching is Tough. And Yet…

I’ve only been a teacher for a few months but already this job has tested me and pushed me to my limits. I’ve seen worse days, but not much worse. But also I’ve had few days better than these.

Let’s be honest, kids are hard work. Especially when you’re partially responsible for their moral upbringing and trying to help them understand the wonder of God’s love when all they want to do is play agario or snapchat each other. (Oh, the joy of middle schoolers!)

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Lately, I’ve had some challenges. Some have been small; others, larger. Sometimes I have to pick my battles and sometimes it feels like I’m trying to quell a mountain of misbehavior. Sometimes though…sometimes everything goes right. My lesson is well executed and engaging, students are on-task or at least responsive to my behavior plan, and I would be proud to have an administrator stop by and witness the learning taking place. It’s in those moments that I remember why I became a teacher.

But it’s not just in those moments. And I need to remember that.

Other times, I’m reminded why I became a teacher when I have a one-on-one conversation with a student that I hope helps them see why certain behaviors are needed. Or I’m reminded when I’m grading a particularly excellent assignment where I can see the student really got it. When I see a struggling student succeed, when a bright but lazy student turns in an assignment that shows not just promise but effort, when I can laugh with my students…these are moments in which I love my job.

And I do. Despite all it throws at me, I love teaching. It’s my calling. If nothing else, I know it’s where I’m supposed to be right now. And until He says “move” I’m staying.

 

This is the first post in a series reflecting on my struggles and joys as a first year teacher. Click on the category “From the Messy Desk” to see more soon.

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My Life’s Work

Potter and ClaySo often the great scholars and artists speak of their “life’s work” (usually in movies when said work is going up in flames, but that’s beside the point). Yesterday I saw a billboard on the side of the road, an ad for a college. It was probably aimed at people older than the traditional college age and asked something to the effect of “have you found your life’s work?”

Well, because I’m easily sucked in I actually pondered this billboard. I have no plans to become a great scholar or scientist necessarily. I don’t think I’ll be devoting my life to researching a cure for cancer or fighting poverty. I realized, however, that my life’s work will be my students.

As a teacher, my kids will be the ones I stay up nights for, worry over, whose success I obsess about. They’ll be the thing that keeps me going, keeps me moving, and makes it all worth it in the end. (Somehow.) Their learning will be what I measure myself by. They will be the thing I would give up anything for.

I’ve been thinking the last few days about money. Stupid idea, I know. But student loans are scary. The company servicing my loans was kind enough to email me a snapshot of my current debt earlier this week. My mom and I were also discussing a young woman we know who recently graduated as a PA and will be making a considerable salary (more than a teacher’s I’ll tell you that!).

Here’s the thing. If I wanted to, I’m certainly smart enough to be a PA. I have the potential. I’m not belittling what they do, I’m just saying I didn’t pick education because it was an easy A (though yeah I wouldn’t call most of my ED classes thus far challenging). I chose education because I felt called to it.There’s a thousand other things I could do with my life. A thousand other majors. But I chose elementary education because I want to help children and because it’s where God called me.

I went on a rant recently along these same lines, saying how I hope my students appreciate it. And sure, it would be nice if I was appreciated. But what’s going to make it worth it in the end is to see my life’s work succeed. To see a third grader understand fractions or a second grader read “magnificent” or to see them walk across that stage at graduation and know I helped get them there.

My students are my life’s work. Classes will come and go but children will always hold a special place in my heart.

Whether I’m a teacher or a mom or an aunt I would be devoting myself to children. I believe today’s children are tomorrow’s Einsteins, Washingtons, and Austens. They deserve the chance to become the people they are meant to be. I want a hand in forming the artists, thinkers, and world-shakers of the next generation, for the better.

So no, I won’t be making 6 figures and making big changes on the global stage. But maybe my students will.

NOTE: I wrote this post over 2 weeks ago but never got around to publishing it. It speaks to my thoughts at the time and in my firm belief that teaching and/or children are meant to be the focus of my life. Upon rereading this tonight, however, I realize you could replace “my students” with “my kids”. (But that will depend on where God leads me of course.)

Homeschooled Students Becoming Public School Teachers–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What happens when a homeschooler goes to college and becomes a teacher? Welcome to my life.

One thing I don’t think I’ve talked about on this blog is homeschooling. But having been homeschooled growing up is a part of my life. Even now that I’m in college it still affects me. Recently I was talking to one of my education department teachers and he was commenting on the number of students we have in the department who were homeschooled as children (this includes me).

He had two thoughts on this, one being: what are their classrooms going to look like? Back when this professor was a grade-school (I’m guessing) teacher he gave a spelling test every Friday, not because a professor in one of his teacher education classes had told him to do so but because growing up he’d had a spelling test every Friday. It was a normal part of his routine. So what about the teacher who hasn’t had much experience with such routines? The teacher who has barely even set foot in a school before she starts student teaching? How will she know what to do when it comes to such things?

Honestly, I can’t answer this. I can guess what I would do, maybe even what other homeschoolers would do. But that’s all it would be, a guess.

I can say that I think it would depend very much on the level of structure and routine one had as a homeschooled student, or at least how much routine your parent tried to enforce. There’s probably homeschoolers who did have spelling tests every Friday. But there’s probably plenty who didn’t. In my family we didn’t  have to raise our hand to go to the bathroom; we didn’t say the pledge of allegiance every morning, or sit calmly  in uncomfortable seats attached to desks or any of that.

As my professor went on all I could think was: yes, that’s why classroom will be so awesome. My classroom is going to be child-centered. This professor happens to be the one teaching my intro to special ed class, he worked in special ed himself for many years. So one thing he knew I could understand is differentiated instruction. In homeschooling it’s all differentiated instruction, a lot of what is taught is tailored to that particular child in lots of situations. I admit differentiated instruction will certainly be hard with 20-30 little ones clamoring around but having been homeschooled I recognize the value of it.

Again, this is a guess. There’s plenty I’ve learned in just my one and a half education classes that has taught me so much and changed or enhanced a lot of my thinking and my behavior towards children. Yet I think child-centered is something I won’t ever forget, something we can all agree is important, something so ingrained and integral that I won’t believe you if you tell me it doesn’t matter. I know it does. Homeschooling has showed me that.

In the end, routines, though beneficial, are not necessarily what make teachers great. Rather, a great teacher genuinely cares for his or her students, just like any homeschool parent does.