I recently saw a post on Facebook called 'Joy, or Just Wait?' It talked about new parents constantly being barraged with, "Oh just wait until they are teenagers..." or, "Oh just wait until (fill in the blank with something negative about parenting)...". In a round about way this made me think about my teaching career. (For the full article click here.)
Parenting can be challenging and so can teaching. There is a lot of negativity that surrounds both. The summer before I started teaching I was working hard to get prepared. Third grade was completely new to me and I didn't know where to start. Having student-taught in fifth grade, I was worried to "step down" to third. But my job was at a school I had previously worked at and I felt it would all be okay.
The school where I worked was a Title 1 school. For those of you that don't know what that is, a Title 1 school has at least 50% of the student body on free or reduced lunch. We had 2 (that has since turned into three) different apartment complexes in our boundaries which means we also had a lot of students transitioning in and out of our classrooms. I had worked as an After-school Program Coordinator for three years at this school and had a little background on the population, school procedures, and teaching (oh my naiveté!).
During the summer about a month before school started, I received my first "Just wait..." phone call. Apparently the group I was going to get was "the hardest group we've had in my twenty years here!" This teacher, who I know had only good intentions, warned me to find another school to teach at because my kids were "rough." While I appreciated her concern (truly I did), this made me want to stay even more. I sorta have this stubborn streak that won't let me quit something once I'm committed.
This was the first of many warnings I received about my first group of kiddos. I heard many more "Just waits" while I was preparing that summer. Surrounded by negativity I tried not to get discouraged. Teaching is hard. We have a lot of hoops to jump through. We have parents who can't help, parents who won't help, and parents who can't help but help anyway. We have conferences, faculty meetings, professional development, and trainings. We have papers to grade, lesson plans to write, and data to track! And let's all face it, our hardest kids are NEVER absent!
But teaching is also wonderful. For every negative thing we have to face, there is undoubtedly more positives. We have hugs to give, smiles to share, and high fives in the hall. We have accomplishments to celebrate and the joy of seeing that spark in their eyes when they learn something new! We buy our kiddos backpacks, shoes, socks, pencils, paper, crayons, glue and more because they need it so desperately. We slip granola bars into the hands of our homeless kids who haven't eaten since lunch at school yesterday. We wipe the tears away from the student whose mom overdosed on drugs over the weekend. We do all of this and more. We do it because we care. We do it because we love what we do. And we do it above all because they are worth it.
So despite all of the negativity surrounding education that we face on a daily basis, I wanted to share with you a few of the "just waits" that I have discovered since that first phone call a few summers ago.
- Just wait until your class comes in on that very first day of school and you realize they are all just as nervous as you are!
- Just wait until a student starts throwing things around the room and you realize you know exactly how to handle the situation and everything worked out great!
-Just wait until you see a student who has struggled to learn something finally "get it" because of you. Those are the moments that give you goose bumps!
-Just wait until you get your students as excited about learning as you are. Enthusiasm for learning is easy to share!
-Just wait until your student makes a connection from a story they read in social studies to a story they are reading during guided reading.
-Just wait until you get a hug from the same student every day as they tell you, "Mrs. Tabrizi, you're my favorite teacher!" (And even though they say it every year, to every teacher, they still mean it!)
-Just wait until the students who you struggled with on a daily basis come back to visit you when they are in junior high and high school. They'll give you a wry smile that speaks volumes when they enter your door!
-Just wait for the moment when you feel bogged down by everything you have to do, overworked and underpaid, and just plain tired. These moments will come. But they won't last. Remember this: You are a better teacher than you could ever imagine. Your students are in your room because they need YOU. You are making a profound difference in each of their lives in ways you can't see yet. When you start to feel this way, pull out a pen and paper and begin making your own "Just Wait" list. I promise it will fill up faster than you think!