It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the classroom. I love being home with my girls, and it’s nice to have a break from constantly testing and placing the same data in different charts for hours on end, only to identify facts that I already knew from talking with the kid in the first place. Grading is tiring, and NCLB is too. I’ve seen a lot of articles from teachers wanting to quit, and I get it. But I miss it sometimes. I was never in it to make charts or argue data. I was in it because kids are awesome, and watching kids learn is even more so. Keep in mind I teach first grade, so this probably doesn’t apply to upper grade teachers, though I’m sure they get their own rewards.
It’s not every job where people fling their arms around you when you walk in the door and declare that they love you and missed you soooo much they couldn’t stand it. They leave notes on your computer and drawings rolled up in your lunch bag. They go home and tell their parents that you know everything, even though you spent plenty of time in front of them looking it up. They call your stick figures great art, your off key singing fabulous and tell you your jokes are the best. They’ll do anything to cheer you up, bring you a band-aid for a paper cut or a wet towel for anything else. They drop into your lap for a hug or to cry. They trust you to keep them safe and hang on your every word.
Best of all, they made me laugh. A few examples (there are far too many to ever list here):
*One of my students, Kyle, said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning like this: “…One nation, under Bob, Invisible, with libraries and justice for all.” One day, he stopped at the end, and said, “Who is Bob, anyway?”
*We were studying hurricanes, and Antonio said, “How do they know where they’re going, if their one eye in is the middle?” Me: “Well, they don’t, because they’re clouds…” Antonio: “How did Hurricane Katrina know how to go to New Orleans then?” Kyle: “Probably had family there.”
*While studying elections, Kaylie said, “Why are we arguing? Why don’t we just bring back Abraham Lincoln? Everyone seemed to like him.” Jane: “Pretty sure he’s dead.” Kaylie: “Well, did anybody CHECK?” (This is also the same child who said we should send Bush and Saddam Hussein into the corner to “think about what they did.”)
*We were studying Thanksgiving. Kaylie: “So, what happened to the Native Americans after Thanksgiving?” Me: “Well…ultimately, they were driven off their land so the settlers could build on it.” Kaylie: That was rude.
One of my student was recently diagnosed with ADHD; he had struggled terribly. Once he had Ritalin, he shot to the top of the class and told everyone about how great he felt and how much he loved school. One day, one of the other kids was bouncing around, and he leaned over and murmured, “Hey, ya know…they make pills for that!”
And my favorite:
I had to do an intervention program which involved modifying language for children with vocabulary deficits. It was great for kids who actually had one, but we had to teach it to all the kids, even those who didn’t need it. It involved pointing to a series of pictures, reading a line, and having the students repeat it many times. My students hated it, and I wasn’t a fan either. These were amazingly well behaved students otherwise.
Me: the cat is wet.
Kids: The cat is wet.
Me: Where is the cat?
Kids: the cat is in the bucket.
Me: There is water in the bucket…. (repeat repeat repeat) The cat is–
Chloe: (stands) We GET it, Mrs O. WE GET IT. THE GODDAMN CAT IS WET.
I really should have done something about that rather than fall down laughing. “Chloe, language…go move your clip.”
Chloe: “Fine, but you know it and we know it.”
The other highlight of teaching is watching students struggle, and then get it. I had a child who was brain damaged and struggled to read even the simplest text. He had often thrown books across the room in disgust, but we worked together often, and with encouragement, he tried hard. Toward the end of the year, he was hiding a book under the desk, and I told him he needed to put it away because it was time for math. “But Mrs. O,” he protested, “there’s so many books and I’m so behind! I gotta catch up!” I celebrated with children when they first learned to read, understood a math concept, wrote their first sentence, won a prize, or got to go show the principal their best work. I watched their eyes light up and their brilliant smiles.
One day, the class had been awful. Fighting, screaming, tantrums, ruined work, trashed classroom, you name it. I was ready to go home and cry–let’s face it, some days, you wish you had a nice warehouse job. I was cleaning up after school and saw a post-it on my computer. I told them not to touch my stuff so I was mad, but I grabbed the note and read it. It was from one of my little ESL students. “Today was bad. Kids were bad. I love you. Thank you for teaching me. Please keep loving me. Tomorrow is better.”
I cried, but for a different reason. And she was right; the next day was better.