The other day I saw some friends from my classes I haven’t seen for a while. While I was chatting with one, she mentioned how student teaching kind of makes us into another version of our classroom teacher. I laughed and we exchanged stories of students who were now accidentally calling the teacher by our name instead of the other way around. It got me thinking about how lucky I have been to be in my teacher’s room and how if I ever get to be half as fantastic as she is I will be a great teacher.
Friday was a rough day and naturally I haven’t stopped replaying the events over and over in my mind. Mostly, I replay the conversation my classroom teacher and I had about rough days and students who are tough to love. She told me some real horror stories of life in the classroom. I won’t repeat them here. They are not my stories to tell. You have to believe me that being a teacher is not just playing all day. This is not an easy job and even when you love it, it is incredibly difficult. My respect for my classroom teacher’s ability and dedication grows with every day.
I cannot help but think it is more than coincidence that the two conversations I have mentioned happened in such close proximity to each other. Maybe I won’t be so terrible after all. Maybe just knowing that other people don’t always know what to do will help me see that I can actually do this. Having been taught by someone so incredible; I know what a great teacher looks like, how it feels to be taught by her, and that even she doesn’t always know what to do either. I have something to strive for and even though I have a tough time believing that she ever struggles with anything, I know she means it when she says she does.
There is a whole lot I have left to learn. I have five school days until I graduate and nineteen until the end of the school year. I know I can learn more in those nineteen days in her room than I have the last three and a half years of lecture. Seeing someone who does their best every day even when it hurts and even when it doesn’t feel like the best is truly an inspiring thing.
I can smile today even when yesterday was terrible because I know that there is someone out there who smiles today even though their yesterday was worse by far than mine. I can be a great teacher because I have learned from the best. From twenty years of her mistakes and her successes, I have learned. I am starting off ahead of the game because of her. I may have days where I fall behind but the next day is a new day. I will smile because I am doing what I love and I have learned how better to do what I love from someone who’s love for teaching is obvious in everything she does. Tomorrow I go in with a smile because being there is so much better than being anywhere else.
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.
Going into my student teaching experience, one of my biggest fears was not having a classroom teacher that was as good as the teacher I have volunteered for and learned from prior to this semester. Immediately upon entering the classroom it was obvious to me that this teacher is special. She has an easy, relaxed way of running her classroom that is so amazing and so different from the half-panic way I usually handle my lessons.
I could not be happier with the place I am in. I love how she has this way of stepping in exactly when you most need help. It is always that moment before you completely fail but not so soon that you feel like she thinks you cannot do it. Maybe that is what makes her such a great teacher all around. Maybe she can teach me how to do that? I think that very well may be the key to being a great teacher; knowing the perfect moment to step in and help.
Whether it is or not, I am so happy to be learning from her and I so grateful for her taking time out of her busy life and schedule to mentor me! The next 13 weeks are going to be a blast!
As student teaching approaches, I find myself looking to my teaching inspiration over and over. In first grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and the assistant teacher in my class (back when every class had two teaches because money wasn’t as tight back then) really encouraged me to continue wanting to be a teacher. She retired a few years after I was in her class and gave me tons of teacher supplies to play school with. I still have a lot of it… And I still play school with it but now I have real students!
The second person who inspired me is my childhood neighbor. She allowed me to come into her classroom every day during my home room period in middle school and every day after school my freshman and sophomore year of hs. She always made me feel like a teacher and helped me learn more about being an effective teacher than any of the college classes I have taken. I still have a picture of her class sitting on my desk to remind me how much I love kindergarten.
The final person who has inspired me is Laura Bush. Former First Lady and former teacher, her story is one that has inspired me since I first remember seeing her on television after the events of 9/11. I have read her book over and over and have fallen in love with her views on reading and teaching students to love reading. My love for reading and First Ladies, inspired by Mrs. Bush, has inspired me to always remember what is most important, that students love learning. I cannot wait to spend every day helping my students discover what is so great about lifelong learning!
“A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning.” -Laura Bush