I think teaching is in my blood. My mother was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher, and my dad is a college professor. Even as a child, I was a teacher. My younger sister and I are four years apart and I took it upon myself to teach her everything I knew. I took my self-imposed responsibility seriously and probably got in trouble a few times for acting too much like the Mama. I could also rally the neighborhood children like nobody’s business and organize community games and activities. People often ask me when I knew I wanted to be a teacher and I usually reply that I cannot ever remember wanting to be anything else. In college, I was one of the few I knew who never wavered in my decision about my major. I was going to be a teacher and that was that.
After many years of teaching, I believe that being a teacher is not a job or a role. It is a passionate calling. I know, sounds cheesy, but really, once a teacher, always a teacher. A teacher isn’t just a teacher within the walls of a school building. Teaching is part of who I am and I cannot separate myself from it. I spend my vacations scouring the gift shops at tourist attractions for just the right addition to a learning center or project focus. I collect milk caps and baby wipe containers because I know I will need them for something at school…eventually! Some years, I have a life size paper boy in my purse everywhere I go, just in case I need a picture of Flat Stanley in an interesting place to help teach my students about our world. I stay up late at night working on projects for school because that is actually relaxing for me…I know. Crazy.
Teaching is tiring and doesn’t pay well…at least not monetarily. Some days are really hard and I arrive home feeling like I gave everything I had and it still wasn’t enough. Most of the time, though, I know that there is nothing else I could do that would infuse me with the kind of energy I get from teaching. I get a rush of adrenaline thinking about how to execute a great idea that will help my students make connections and see something in a new light. I love finding that perfect game or activity to add to a project, and I adore seeing the faces of my students when they really understand something for the first time.
I love my relationships with my students and being a part of their lives. I learn so much from them – they teach me about stopping to appreciate the details of life, like the ants on the playground and the wind blowing the leaves from the trees. Their responses to exploration and discovery keep me wanting to learn more. The children also show me about forgiveness and letting go of grudges because friendship is a gift to be treasured.
As a new school year begins, I am reminded of all of the children who have impacted my life and given me the drive to continue on this teaching journey. Without them, it would not be worth it. The children are the reason I teach and they keep me coming back for more. So, this teacher is happy to be teaching, and learning, spending my days observing butterflies and eating “blueberry” sand cakes; singing songs and reading picture books; counting by fives and tens, and sorting vowels and consonants. Welcome back to school everyone! Enjoy the journey…every step of the way!