As each school approaches it always comes with a healthy dose of trepidation. Trepidation that I am always sure to tell the kids about. I feel like they need to know they aren't the only one housing nerves, anticipation and weariness. They wonder will I like that teacher like Mr. So and So last year or my math teacher. I have found they are glad to know I am right there with them. Plus then to covers me if I screw up due to nerves.
As I started my fourth year of teaching this year it was different. My enviroment was different than the first two years. It was a repeat of the third. A third that by all standards was amazing. It was unique as it was our inaugural class of a unique concept high school. It is similar to being in the trenches together. We started this new to us thing all together and did it for a full school year.
So as August approached I knew I would have a whole new group of new kids. I felt like it would never be possible to love them like I loved that first group. I grieved long and hard about that first group and letting them go. Then I relished in the fact that at any traditional school rarely do you have the opportunity to move along with each class. As well, I knew our environment was small enough I would see them daily.
Then the first day happened. The first week and the first month. I sat around and thought teaching is not all that different than being a mom. You think it is impossible to love the next child more. You fret and worry about splitting your time, yourself and wonder will they love you still for unintentially "abandoning" them. Within a few days I realized love grows. I know this. But I got to witness it. My heart grew bigger.
It was a lesson that I needed. Many of college kids stay in contact with me and it has been almost four years now since I have seen them. I know the impact that teaching can make but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don't even realize I am making an impact.
Take this random student from my very first class of university freshman. I was shopping in the store one day and the cashier says, "Do you teach at said university?" I slightly glance her way not recognizing her and say, "I did." She said, "You probably don't remember me, but I changed my major because of you." I say, "Oh you did?" As I frantically search for who she is in my brain. She shares that the encouragement I gave her made her want to teach English like myself. Wow! She graduates in the Spring. That is amazing. But the story gets better….This student was my first ever problem student.
She had a grandma that died four times in one semester with a myriad of other issues. She struggled to keep her head afloat in her new academic environment and honestly when we parted at the end of the semester she was one I pegged for not making it and becoming a lack of retention statistic. But midway through the semester I was unsure of how to handle the situation and I sought out my mentor. She says, "You know students have the right to fail. You tell them you don't want them to fail and put it back on them. Give her that."
So I did. I sat her down and had a tough talk with her. So tough that when we parted I felt bad. I didn't yell or make her feel bad. I told her the truth. That no one can give you success, you have to choose it. And I put the responsibility back in her hands. I didn't know it at the time, but by doing that I changed her mind. I let her know I cared. I would have never dreamed that three years later I would see her and see that my chat would change her. But it did.
Teachers don't make a lot of money. But they get those moments. That reminds me that even when my students walk away from me and that trepidation is gone. That what we accomplish together matters. It matters more than either of us can quantitify or divide. What I will remember is to never doubt that.
I do worry that sometimes I romanticize about what being a teacher means. I have always know that the content of what I teach is down. I can rock that out of the ballpark every day of the week. It is the dealing with all different kinds that is hard. You never know what you will get and how it will all work together. But I need to work harder and have faith that when you choose this profession you know it is all about getting to know to getting ready to let go.