Let’s be honest, shall we? Teachers often perform a thankless job. Don’t get me wrong a good teacher is beloved by his or her students for that year they are in the classroom, but often a year or two down the road referred to as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so. We as teachers understand this is the natural progression of things and to a point encourage it. Change is natural and affections and connections alter as we grow. Still, we are often left years down the road looking at our collection of yearbooks and class photos of classes gone by wondering where are they? Did they turn out ok? Did they ever get the times tables mastered?!
It is truely frustrating if you think about it too long. Often teachers are belittled or down-rigth trashed by politicians and tax payers for our long summers off and easy schedules…..hahahahaha! Meanwhile everyone relies on teachers. There is not a profession out there that does not obtain its foundations through education. Some countries would literally die for our educational opportunities. Let me tell you how I spend my many hours “off.” I research, create, try out, and use my own kids as guinea pigs for future lessons. I shop for snacks, supplies, sometimes even clothing for my students who need a little extra help (and yes this comes from my meager pay). I attend seminars. I give seminars. I write curriculum. I blog. I create websites for my class. Often times I work harder at home wracking my brain to find better ways to do things and reach my students during my work day than I do actually implementing the lessons during class time. I spend hours reading the 5 novels that my literature circles are all reading to keep up and stay ahead of them so as to ask the meaningful questions. My own kids often as when I will be done and able to play or read on weekends with them.
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT COMPLAINING! This is more than a job for me. This is a calling. I could not imagine doing anything else. But still at times you wonder, does it matter? I’m forgotten a year or two down the road. Does it stick? Did I help?
Today, I was reminded I do matter. I had an experience I wish every educator could have. One of my first ever 4th graders, now junior in high school, came in to teach my class a lesson about how laws are created. I had no clue she would be one of the students teaching when I agreed to this co-teaching experience. What a wonderful surprise.
Let me tell you about Kwanaya as I first remember her. She was a beautiful little girl who had quite a big personality. More often than not that personality landed her in some tight situations. She struggled a bit academically, but you could tell she had a lot to offer. We did not hit it off the first half of that year. And then we had THE TALK. You know the talk you have with one of your students where you are basically letting them “get the mama treatment.” You talk to them straight, no holding back and make the options VERY clear. That talked changed our relationship. I told her, “show me you want this and are willing to try, and I will back you one hundred percent.” Well that year ended very well for her. She left me for 5th grade in a better place academically. I cried.
A few years later, I had the opportunity to spend a year at the middle school. The first day students arrived I found myself almost pounded into the lockers by this beautiful young woman who tackled me with a bear hug. My Kwanaya had grown up. She was now an A and B student and a proud member of our AVID class. I cried again that night so happy for her and all she had achieved. I also cried because she made me feel that I mattered that day too. That I had somehow contributed to all the great things she was doing.
Today, as I right this, I cry again. Such happy, happy tears! I am so proud of the young woman she has become. She was able to work well with my class and really teach them something. She is eloquent and sophisticated. She is gracious and patient. She remembered me again and let me know that the things we do as teachers are not for naught. They matter. Today has been one of my proudest moments in this profession. To see one of “my kids” come back and have made so many good choices and worked so hard and have such wonderful plans and goal for her future makes my heart sing.