I gave a “talk” to preservice teachers from Grove City College today. What seemed to be just 5 minutes of me rambling about flexibility and meeting the needs of our learners had a ripple effect for me today. I allowed myself to rewind to when I myself was fresh out of college, years younger, and full of ideas and desires about changing the world one child at a time. Twenty long years later, the only change is that some of my learners are my peers and possibly a few gray hairs.
I am still a firm believer in the fact that educators make a difference in the lives of those children they teach. Some of us cross a student’s path for a year, a semester, or a day as a substitute, while others of us impact a child for multiple courses, or even years.
As an elementary educator I had my 25-30 students who were like my own children all day every day for a whole year. Those kids were so easy to get to know. I knew them,they knew me, and forging a learning family was natural.
However, in a secondary setting forging those relationships is not as easy. Kids come running in and dashing out each period. New faces hold court in your classroom each period. Some students never cross your path, or only cross your path once their entire secondary experience. What will that student take away from that one chance encounter? Will you have smiled at them? Will you have greeted them? Were you too busy fleeing from one destination to the next to even acknowledge them? Did you fail to see the frustration or fear on the face of that child that you groused at him/her for running late? Did you ask that child why they were running behind before you reprimanded?
I firmly believe we pay now or pay more later with kids. Sometimes when we are marching to the beat of the clock and the never-ending stream of standards, we lose sight of an essential fact. WE TEACH HUMANS. They are not automated robots that learn on command. They have feelings, fears, frustrations, and even more interestingly hormones. Our students are humans and they need us to see them as individuals; all unique in approaches to learning and life. I always remind my students that we are all “imperfectly perfect.” No one who walks this earth is perfect.
The tweets shared today from my “talk” made me reflect. Made me realize that us adults sometimes need a reminder that WE ARE HUMANS TOO. We make mistakes, we get sick, we get frustrated when copiers jam and coverage is needed… again. We can be so hard on ourselves, but we must never lose sight of our focus, the kids. We must soldier on. We need to trust ourselves to fail forward, make mistakes and learn from them, and trust that every other adult in this building has failed a time or two as well.
Today I slowed down. I kept my eyes up as I ran from one room to the other. As I covered another person’s class instead of feeling put out for lost time I found myself thankful that I had earned a chance encounter with a few more students. I embraced the opportunity to be the person who was there for them when their trusted teacher couldn’t be. I listened, I smiled, and I remembered the young lady who launched out of college ready to take on the world.
As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I want to give thanks to those who make a difference in the lives of our students. I am thankful for all of my students; past, present, and future. I am thankful for my colleagues who work so hard every day to engage the learners in their rooms. I am thankful for my admin team whom spend hours juggling behavior concerns, parent phone calls, committees, and a whole menagerie of outside agencies to ensure the safety, welfare, and growth of all whom enter our schools.
However that is only half of the awesomeness that is our schools. I am thankful for the wonderful people who serve as our aides working one-on-one with students when we can’t regenerate limbs and reach one more child. I am always in awe of our custodial staff who runs a tight ship and responds to situations most want to flee. I am blown away by the staff that feeds our children, serves their meals, and offers yummy meals made with TLC. I certainly know we’d be lost without our troop of administrative assistants who meet, greet, shuffle, and manage our offices with style and grace and smiles on their harried faces.
Most of all I am thankful to our students. They come to school, add life to a quiet building, challenge us to be the best we can be, and are the purpose and reason we come to these jobs each day. I hope that they are thankful for us as well. My fervent wish is that when asked, every child can say an educator made a positive impact on his/her life.
I wish all a Happy Thanksgiving. Maslov says our basic needs must come first, so enjoy some good eats, treats, and time to relax and rejuvenate. Then come back ready to roll with our very animated HUMAN learners with visions of winter wonders to come.