Here I am. Two months from now I will be in a totally different place than I am now. For the first time since pre-school I will not be a student. I will actually (hopefully) be a teacher. I will (hopefully) live on my own in a place I pay for myself. I will (hopefully) have my own classroom. Where this classroom will be, I do not know. Where I will be living, I do not know. Who will I be, I do not know. I told my teacher this today and it made me think; what do I really want? As is usual with me, I opened my mouth and let out everything I have been holding in and worrying about recently.
From the moment I knew I wanted to be a teacher way back in the first grade, I wanted to work at the elementary school I attended. I came back to that elementary school several times after I graduated and the feel of the school was different. When I was there as a student, the school felt welcoming from the moment you walked in. The whole feel of the school was one that filled you with an academic mindset and sense of how much the teachers cared about each student. My principal knew the name of every one of the 800-some students in the k-6 building. He was the one who instilled that feeling in the school. I realized that what I wanted from a teaching job was not specific location but a specific feeling.
I have been in many schools over the past four years. I have found that shortly after walking into a school, you can tell whether or not the school is a great school. Much of that feeling is set up by the principal but it also comes from the teachers. A school full of great teachers is hard to find. It is especially hard to see those great teachers if they do not have a great leader. The feeling of a school is important to me. If it does not feel right to me as an adult, how is a child on their first day going to feel? Schools should be places that welcome students and make them feel safe. Schools are where young people spend most of their waking hours. Teachers are the leaders, caregivers, mentors, and role-models for seven hours a day for their students. The future of anything rests on the shoulders of young people and as teachers it is our job to give students a chance to access knowledge and resources so that students can make their community and their world a better place. Teachers start that. That is why teaching matters. That is why public schools are so important. That is why I want to make laws about teaching.
I want to make the difference for teachers. Make teaching a more professional and respectable position. Pass laws that make schools safer, better, and more able to adapt to the individual needs of each student. I want to make a difference for every student in my state; maybe even the country, whether they actively see it or not. Schools should be a place where students needs are met before we can possibly expect them to learn anything or do well on any test. I tell myself (whenever I feel discouraged about my students not appreciating the amazing opportunity they have to attend school) that if one student came to school and got a meal that they would not otherwise get today, my being here was absolutely worth it. It was worth my being here if one student was able to feel a sense of security and safety while at school they otherwise might not have felt. Even one student getting a hug that they otherwise may not have gotten. That is what makes what teachers do every day worth it. No test can show big-wig government officials what really matters in schools; what really makes teachers great. I want to be the voice in our government for schools, the voice for students, the voice for the teachers who make sure their students eat, feel safe, and feel loved.
Giving young people access to knowledge and resources necessary for them to succeed; that is purpose of school. Whether or not a school achieves that is something that can be felt after spending only a short time there. A test can never measure that feeling. A teacher can feel it. Students can feel it.
I think I may have found it in the school I am in.