When I first decided to become a teacher almost many, many years ago, I made that decision based on the fact that I could be creative. I was excited to make lessons and activities that would create a fun learning environment and also be fun for me! Even when I was teaching at schools that did not allow for too much flexibility, I always found a way to bend the rules or found time to implement a fun, hands-on leaning activity for the content I needed to teach. Within a few years (and some experience under my belt), I was able to find schools that really valued my creativity and now I am at a school where I get to write my own curriculum! Teaching allows for the creativity side of me to flourish and I really love that about my job!
Make a Difference
Teaching allows me to come home everyday and know that something I did within those 7 hours made a positive difference in someone's life, even if I am unaware of it. Whether it was teaching a new concept, giving good advice or facilitating a conversation between 30 kids where they were able to learn from each other, I know something good happened and I was a part of it. I got into teaching because I wanted to be creative and I think what keeps me in the classroom is the fulfillment I get from being a positive person in the lives' of children. Last year was a really rough year. I thought since it was my 12th year in the classroom, I wouldn't have some of the same feelings I had my very first year of teaching, but I did! I was worn down by abnormal circumstances. I got down on myself because I thought I wasn't being the best teacher I could be for my kids and coming to school somedays felt like a chore rather than the privilege that it is. I decided that at the end of the school year, I would write a letter to my students telling them about how amazing they are and what a wonderful year it was that we had together. Some of them had tears in their eyes when I read it out loud to everyone. There was a 5th grade graduation that day and the love and appreciation I felt from my students and their parents was a feeling I will never forget. Sometimes we need validation in what we are doing and that is okay. We will not always get it and that is okay, too, but we need to always remind ourselves that we are making a difference.
How many people can go to work each day and say it's fun? Not many that I know of. People are always saying "Love what you do and you will not work a day in your life". Even though teaching is a TON of work, it's also something I love to do and so it does not feel like a regular job. I get to laugh with the kids and be reminded on a daily basis of what it means to be young and excited about the silliest things. There are so many examples of this in my career, and some that stand out are: when the scholastic book box was delivered and my entire class gave it a standing ovation to it (see my IG account for that one!), when I returned after being sick for a few days, I got an applause for coming back, celebrating a book character's birthday and singing the "Happy Birthday" song to a nonexistent person, traveling to Washington, DC and experiencing the memorials and museums through the eyes of 10 year olds, an applause when I finish a really amazing read aloud, fidget spinner challenges the last week of school, coloring and pasting fun activities together - and the list goes on! Being a teacher brings out the inner child in you!
I read a Facebook post from a friend and I absolutely loved it. She was talking with someone and the person was going on and on about how unfair it is that teachers only work part of the year, have summers off and all these breaks, great hours, etc. She turned to him and said, "Yeah, it is. Sucks you didn't choose a profession with the same benefits." Another teacher had a similar conversation and simply stated that he was collecting overtime throughout the summer. We work hard throughout the school year and only a teacher can really understand the absolute need for a spring break and summer break. The kids need a break from us and each other! And to our benefit, we still get to collect a check while sleeping in, reading our favorite novel, basking in the sun, traveling around the world, or walking around the malls when the crowds are all at their jobs. Heck, I even get excited about being able to schedule a dentist appointment! So as much as we get crap for this, I LOVE that we get so much time off. For a long time, I spent it making more money and adding to my income. And granted, for the first 8-10 years, I put in my time and worked in my classroom during most breaks, but now, I am living it up! This summer I traveled throughout Asia, I am going to Colombia to practice Spanish during Thanksgiving and next summer I hope to plan a cycling trip through France and visit a friend in England. Because I am a teacher, I am doing all of this on a teacher's budget, but that is what adds to the adventures. We put in our time to enjoy our summers off and holiday breaks. I will never let anyone make me feel guilty for that. When people tell me how great it is that teachers get so many days off, I smile and say, "I know!"
We Get 2 New Years
The start of every school year is a new beginning and I love it because it's a new opportunity for me to plan fresh goals and check in on ones I made January 1st. Tomorrow is my first day of school and I have my outfit laid out, fresh, healthy food in the fridge, a morning workout planned and workout clothes ready to go for 5am. I have my planner ready for Day 1 written with a fresh set of flair pens and it's a new start for 27 kids that are entering our classroom tomorrow. There is something invigorating about fresh starts! I love that I get to also start over as a teacher again! I get to do what I didn't do so well last year better this year! I get to reinvent ideas that I was not so excited about and I get to look forward to the ones that were super fun! I get to also look forward to rereading my favorite books to the class and wait to see their responses, I get to share thoughtful quotes with them and teach them all the important things I taught previous classes and witness their attitudes and opinions. I get to be a part of a whole new group of kids' learning and achievements. With every new school year, I am given the opportunity to become a better teacher than I was the previous year and I am given the time before school starts to plan and prepare for how that is going to happen.
I Get to Live Out My Passion
Very often, I speak with people who are trying to fulfill a passion after work or when they have time. Their jobs are not fulfilling and sadly, they know it. As teachers, we are so incredibly lucky to be able to know what our purpose is in life and go for it. I don't think many teachers realize how few people get to spend their entire day living out a passion. There are plenty of reassuring moments. When a student ran out of the room crying because a handful of kids laughed at her and I stopped the math lesson to discuss why that is not an acceptable way to behave in our classroom or in society and 20 minutes later, long after I have stopped talking and the kids are having their own conversation about it, I can tell that they get it. And then months later, I stopped and realized that they had all shown compassion, empathy and consideration towards that student since the conversation and tears were brought to my eyes, I knew that this is where I am supposed to be and without a question, this is what I am supposed to be doing. I am so sure that all of you have had plenty of moments like this one I describe. It's what our job is about. We can teach the standards, we can teach the math facts, we can teach kids how to read, but it's in the moments where we teach them how to be good people that the true hard work has been accomplished.
In conclusion, if you are ever down about teaching and aren't sure why you got into the profession in the first place and your hundredth Google search of "What else can you do with a teaching degree besides teach" comes up dry, or, if you are being inundated with negativity about the profession, please stop and think about why you love what you do. And if anything on my list rings true to you, stop by and have another read. Here's to you and me and our next new school year together!
Daughter of the King, wife and mother, former upper elementary teacher, curriculum and course developer