Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back 2 School

I survived my first week back in the classroom after having spent my entire summer just sitting around doing nothing.

So many people make sly comments to me about how nice it must be to have weekends, holidays, and three months of the year off. To those people I quickly jump down their throats, reminding them that teaching is not a job - it is your life. It is all-encompassing. We as teachers spend our weekends planning lessons and our evenings grading papers. For nine months of the year, our free time is nonexistent. If you think this is a cushy job, let me remind you of the huge responsibility we face every single day.

We have to deal with answering to parents, administrators, and standardized test scores all the while dealing with curriculum, content, and behavior. We have to constantly be honing our craft by attending workshops and taking graduate classes to keep our certificates current, often out of our own meager-salaried pockets. We have to be easy and hard, fast and slow. No matter how hard we work or how many hours we invest outside of the school day, there will always be someone who disapproves of the way we do our job.

And we wonder why so many young teachers leave the profession after 5 years.

I have to admit, I worried for the past few months if I would one day become one of those statistics. As much as I love being in the classroom and have a passion for teaching writing and literature, it's easy to be blinded by all those variables that keep us from doing the job the best we possibly can.

The nerves I felt entering the classroom on Tuesday were more than just "first day of school" jitters. I knew a lot was riding on this week. Would I feel the same elation being in the classroom again? Would the exhaustion get to me or make me feel satisfied that I was making a difference? As the week wore on, I continued to question my stamina and drive to do this job well.

Then something happened that reminded me why I do this in the first place. It was Thursday and I was still going over some procedures that I hadn't covered with my classes yet when I looked around and noticed that I had 25 sets of eyes on me as I explained the steps for checking out a book from my personal classroom library. As I finished explaining the steps, I told them how much I loved books, how I've read a large number of the 200+ books on my shelves, and then proceeded to show them a few of my favorites. As soon as I finished talking, multiple hands shot up, asking all sorts of questions like, "Mrs. S, have you read the book..." "What was your favorite book in the Harry Potter series?" "Oh, Mrs. S if you like travel memoirs, my mom read this book over the summer that I think you'd like..." When I gave them a few minutes of free time, many of them rushed over to my book shelf to choose a book to check out.

It was then that it all came flooding back to me, my reason for being here. If I could bottle this feeling up and bring it out every time I have a bad day, I would. Twenty-five students, all eyes on me, talking about books like we're just sitting around the kitchen table having a casual conversation. This is when teaching is free and easy. This is when I leave at 3:15 with a smile on my face. This is... why.

There will certainly be days where this feeling of elation will be long dormant in me as I deal with not just the joys, but the heartaches of the job, but if I can remind myself that days like Thursday are the reason I do this, I need not worry. I'll be in a classroom for many years to come.

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to let you know I thought of you recently while listening to the Manic Mommies podcast. The particular episode that I've linked to involved a segment where the hosts (Erin and Kristin) have a conversation with two of their listeners who just happen to both be teachers. One of the teachers is a long-time 5th grade teacher, and the other is a veteran teacher who is teaching 5th grade for the first time. One of the hosts had her son write in a journal during summer vacation -- just a couple sentences every day -- and he tended to complain about it. The veteran teacher than suggested several ways to encourage him to enjoy writing in his journal, and I pictured you with your students. The suggestions included talking about the events of the day into a recorder, listening to the recording and then choosing what to write about, as well as just writing, "I don't know what to write. I can't think of anything. But my teacher is standing here next to me, and I'm supposed to write." The sound quality on this particular podcast episode is not the greatest -- I think it had something to do with the technology they used to talk to their listeners -- but you might get a kick out the teacher discussion, which I think happens somewhere between the 45 and 50 minute mark.