Tag: teach

The Heart of a Teacher (The Untold Story)

When I envisioned becoming a teacher, I pictured standing in front of a classroom presenting these beautiful, heartfelt lessons to the enthusiastic students seated in front of me who were just as excited about education and who were ready and eager to learn. While I didn’t go into teaching to feel a sense of power, I certainly thought I would at least earn respect from my students, their parents, and the community. We would all work together to ensure the success of every child in my classroom. Hey, maybe we would even lock arms and sing, “We Are the World,” overwhelmed by just how much we had done that would impact the world within that year those students were a part of my class. (Okay, so that might be taking it a bit far.)

                                                   

I was a bit naive about how things would really go down, but is it too much to ask for me to have something close to that? Suprisingly, yes it is. The reality is that my classroom is far from magical, and every day is a battle to get my students to be enthusiastic about the learning process.

But what surprises me even more about everything (and what this post is really about) is how ignorant everyone else is about exactly what it is that teachers are required to do. People truly believe that our days begin and end with the ringing of the school bell, that the only time we spend working is during those “work hours.”  How hard can it be, right?  It infuriates me when someone comments on the number of days off that we have, citing the breaks and holidays, as if those days off make our job any easier or when someone who has never been in the classroom wants to tell me what they would do if they had to deal with a particular situation in my class as if I am too ignorant to have thought of the same solutions. (I would never allow a student to speak to me like that. Why don’t you just throw him/her out? You just have to have discipline and the kids will behave.) Boy, please!

                                                                 

The thing is, it’s not easy. People don’t really understand just how difficult this career is, just how many different hats teachers are asked to wear, how much pain and happiness our hearts go through in a day while dealing with other people’s children and the endless demands placed upon us. You see, I actually feel like what I spend the least amount of time doing each day is actually teaching the subject that I get paid to teach. Yeah, I said it.

Now, before you freak out, let me explain.

   

Unfortunately, all of my students don’t come to me from perfect homes with supportive parents who are able to help guide them through the many ups and downs of school. Many of my students come to school with so much on their own plates that school is the last thing on their mind. Just this year alone, the stories that I have heard about some of my students’ lives is enough to make many Lifetime Channel movies (and you know how dramatic those can be). The things some of them have dealt with and seen or are currently dealing with is too much for even adults to comprehend, so how do we expect a child (my students are thirteen and fourteen years old) to be able to process what they’re going through or for them to care about what their grade is in my class? My teammates and I have been in tears several times this year as we try to fathom the hurt and pain that some of our students are dealing with every day. We’ve all been to the point where we just want to take some of our students home with us so we can shield them from the frustration and suffering. Yet, I’m supposed to just teach them about essay writing and grammar and everything will be okay?

What about all of the normal teenage issues that kids have to deal with? Although each school level has its own set of problems, I can definitely speak on middle school students and all that they’re going through at this age. Fitting in and learning who they are are the biggest concerns for my students. Their self-worth is based upon their hairstyles, their clothes, the way they think they look, how they speak, the music they listen to, sports they play, what group they hang out with, how many followers they have on Instragram, and the list goes on. It’s very difficult to teach someone who is worried about how everyone around them perceives them or is uncomfortable in their own skin. So I spend a lot of my time dealing with bullying, low self-esteem, conforming to fit in with others, misplaced anger, overwhelming sadness, and a sense of worthlessness or just confusion. It’s impossible to ignore all of this and just try to teach kids who have all of these other issues on their mind. Yet, I’m supposed to just keep on trekking and make sure these students are proficient at picking out the best textual evidence to support their thesis statement and writing a great paper. Really?

Electronics, video games, TV, and social media. Even parents know that these are tough competition. In this age of technology, kids are attached to these items 24/7 and getting them to focus on other subjects can seem impossible. I have kids literally falling asleep throughout the day because they stayed up to 2:00am on the phone watching videos or texting friends. Teachers have to constantly be on top of new fads, working to make lessons as fun and engaging as possible, finding clever ways to infuse the technology the kids love and yes, even social media, into our lessons. In a culture of instant gratification, trying to get kids to slow down and focus on a task that they can’t perfect right away, telling them they will have to practice it over and over again in order to master it, is a monumental task. Yet, I should be able to get my students to write, revise, and edit their essays several times before they turn them in to me. Let’s be realistic, please.

In order not to make this a book, I’ve only pointed out just a few of the issues that we encounter as teachers. Only…a…few. I haven’t even gotten to the fact that in addition to teaching we are expected to still be curriculum specialists, guidance counselors, referees, grief counselors, moms, dads, police officers, advisers, entertainers, data analyzers, be able to supply students with the basic school necessities, keep them engaged, well-behaved, report any inappropriate, suspicious, or below-grade level behavior, serve on different committees, attend numerous workshops, and keep up with every educational trend all while someone sits in the back of our classroom and evaluates our every move or while people sit in their government offices and make decisions that will impact our workload and pay.

Personally, I feel like we’re superheroes in disguise, saving the day behind the scenes, but never getting the credit for all that we do.

So please don’t get upset with me if a child’s test scores is not my first priority. I’m sure that I speak for all teachers when I say that we’re more concerned with the people seated in front of us than the scores on a paper, with the growth and development and the overall well-being of our students than what level they scored on an unfair test. Yes, we do want to see them do well on the tests, to improve and show growth, to be successful in school, but that’s not the end all be all. That’s not our daily motivation. We are focused on the WHOLE child, not just the part evaluated by a test.

And our students see us as more than just teachers. They tell us about their problems, and brag to us about their accomplishments, they get hugs from us to cheer them up or give us hugs to try to cheer us up, they scream our names from down the hallway and run to us to say hello, some adopt us as Mom or Auntie or Uncle and try to invite themselves to dinner at our house, they beg us to come watch them at their games or to read the story they wrote. We are so much more to them and they are so much more to us.

I wish more people would listen to us and understand our hearts, hearts that break for our students as well as swell with pride. What we give our kids can’t be found in a textbook or on the next state assessment.

What we do is more than just teach.

We give our students our hearts.

EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That should count for so much more than any test score.

All of my teacher friends, what do you think? Please feel free to chime and comment below!

 

 

 

We Are Called to Love

It’s November already.

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I remember the beginning of this year and the promises that I made to myself to make this year my best year yet. I was determined to be #unbothered by life and people, to focus on setting goals and achieving them, and to change things in my life that were no longer working for my good. I am happy to say that while I may have lost my cool a few times (or many), I didn’t reach all of my goals that I set, and I haven’t made every change that I wanted to make, my life has improved drastically by what I have accomplished thus far.

Spend more time in the presence of God. Check!

Lose weight. Check!

Transfer to a new school. Check!

Reduce my debt. Check!

These were just some of my goals that I made and achieved, and my life has definitely been much more fulfilling. I must say that I am quite proud of myself. When I do my check-ins with my accountability partner, I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I realize all that I’ve done to improve my life and my state of mind.

However, lately something has been missing. There’s been this empty space that’s been longing to be fulfilled. While I’m not a selfish or self-centered person (although we all are in some way), I didn’t feel like I was doing all I needed to do in the area of service. My heart has always gone out for other people (I mean, I am a teacher), but I have not been consistent with going that extra mile to help others.

Lately, I’ve felt the need more to do more to help others especially when I consider how I can have a bigger impact on the lives of my children. How do I really get them to love and to appreciate and to be grateful for their lives and all of the blessings they have?

How do I get them to understand that they should give more than they take in this world?

What is the legacy that I want to leave behind that my children can take up and continue even when I am gone?

That’s when I decided enough was enough. The end of this year would be the beginning of my journey in purposeful serving. In other words, I would be purposely seeking opportunities to be a blessing to others. Some things that I have done thus far:

  1. Gotten more involved in my Raktivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist) community on Facebook, getting inspired by all of the wonderful, beautiful things other people are doing to serve others selflessly. These people have hearts so big that I don’t know how their chests can contain them.
  2. I’ve joined a campaign this month called Neighborly November. Instead of just doing 30 days of Gratefulness in which most people document 30 things for which they are grateful, we are challenged to put action with our gratitude. Every day I must find a way not to just speak of my gratitude but to actually live it out. (Created by Carrie Wisehart)
  3. I took my younger son (6 years old) to my school’s sorting of the items from our Harvest Drive. We had an enjoyable time while running food from the center of the gym floor to the designated areas around the room. More than 100 families were able to receive food just in time for the beginning of the holidays because of this Harvest Drive. I felt so fulfilled just watching all of the volunteers running back and forth cheerfully sorting food even after a long day of school and work.
  4. I started working on a community service project with my team at work so we can get our students involved in serving others while learning the concept of giving without expecting to receive something in return (more to come on this in future posts).

While it’s easy to live in our bubbles and focus on just our own problems and needs, God has called us to love and serve one another, to use our gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and that’s just what I want to do. I want to do it and teach my children and my students the same thing. I pray that my children and my students will learn to love helping others, not because they will be rewarded, but because it feels good to do so, that they become intrinsically motivated to do what’s right.

I write this post not because I want any accolades or praise but to hold myself accountable. If I tell everyone what I am going to do, I know that people will be checking to see if I’m doing what I said I will do even on those days when I don’t feel like it and just want to focus on self.

Maybe I can motivate others to do the same.

Maybe I can start a small movement.

Maybe I can open more hearts to the love that God has called us all to show.

Stay tuned for more…