Tomorrow I graduate from college. I am not leaving my class until the end of their school year so I did not expect any kind of celebrating to go on. I really honestly did not expect anything so when my classroom teacher asked me copy a huge stack of papers for next week in the middle of the afternoon by saying, “I am going to ask Miss Haley to leave now. Oh here copy the papers in the tray,” it took me a moment to process what was happening. I actually stated at her for what felt like forever before it clicked. I carried the stack out to the copier and ran copies. About halfway through, the copier jammed. I knew I couldn’t go back to my teacher and the others would be busy so I just stood at the copier until someone walked by. She helped me fix it a little and then the office lady fixed it the rest of the way. I made more copies and it jammed again! As I was processesing how I would explain this to the office lady as she walked back past, my classroom teacher called me back in the room. Flustered by my inability to fix the copier and the thought that not all of the copies had been made, I rushed back into the room arms full of paper. I didn’t process that the lights were off and there cookies and juice on the table until I was halfway across the classroom and blurted out, “I broke the copier!” Cheering broke out. I stopped looked around and saw the cookies, juice, noise makers, and smartboard with congratulations written on it and signed by all of the students. They cheered for quite a while before my teacher stopped the noise to ask them to tel me why they were celebrating. One of the students answered, “Miss Haley is graduating college!” They ate their cookies and hugged me over and over. I nearly cried when one student, who is particularly difficult and who I had ‘gotten into trouble’ earlier, asked for a hug. I knew I loved these kids but I forget how much they mean to me and how much they care. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the semester! (And I may or may not have cried twice on the way home…)
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.
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