Thursday, May 20, 2010

What I've learned about being a teacher

Today is my last day of teaching, at least for now, at least in this capacity. A few weeks ago a friend told me that she always knew I was going to be a teacher, because I bossed people around and had no problem telling people what I thought. Why occasionally these two personality traits do come in handy, there are a few more things I've learned about being a teacher. I thought I would share a few.

1. Contrary to what the non-education world might think, teaching is not an 8-4 job. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in my classroom, with my laptop at home, on a bus, in a suburban, or at a conference, because I know that quality education does not occur when your hours are only 8-4. My students would often joke about where the cot was located in my classroom, I know that teaching only partway would never have been enough for me.

2. If parents don't respect you, your classroom, your content area, your style of teaching, or your authority, their student will not either. I am so blessed to have parents that when I got in trouble at school, I was in double trouble when I got home- no questions asked. They might not have agreed with everything my educators did, but they were not about to speak disrespectfully of them in front of me. Teaching our children respect for authority figures seems to be a dying trend, but it's one I'm so glad my parents instilled in me.

3. You have to be able to laugh. Teenagers are ridiculous, parents can be ridiculous, paperwork, inservice, advisory councils- they can all be ridiculous, and unless you know how to take these things in stride, you are going to go bonkers! I know without a doubt my sarcasm, off sense of humor, and ability to laugh despite the circumstances has kept me going through some crazy times!

4. A dedicated yet relaxed administrator makes all the difference. In the three schools I have taught at, I have witnessed how much impact a great principal makes in the environment of the school. Last night I attended a touching, yet upbeat retirement party with a wonderful staff that will be hard to leave. The people you work with truly make a difference.

5. Sometimes it's okay to show a movie. My first year teaching I was overwhelmed- and that was an understatement. I remember feeling like I just could not go on. I emailed one of my former ag teachers and he told me that sometimes it is okay to show a movie. It's not for the students, they don't deserve it, but sometimes you just need some time to breathe. I hope that learning, in some form, occurs everyday in my classroom, and sometimes the best learning occurs when I've had time to regroup thanks to a wonderful Disney film occupying my students' time. Remember the Titans was always my go-to flick.

6. As much as want to, we can't save them all and we can't take them home. Gosh I love teenagers. I love their energy, spark, personalities- watching them explore who they are and who they want to be. It kills me when I see them struggling and when I know that I could provide a more stable and loving home life as a young, single female then there supposed parents could. I cried for them. I longed for them. I wanted better for them all the time. And I told them when I stopped nagging them, to be concerned, because at that point, I had stopped caring. Gosh they pulled on my heart, but I am so grateful that I got the chance to love them, even when they seemed pretty unloveable.

7. Teenagers will always surprise you. People will always surprise you. Good teachers know how to handle the surprises- to learn from them and use them to help grow others.

8. Take advantage of the teachable moments. There is a very big world going on outside high school- and high schoolers tend to forget about that. My favorite moments in teaching occurred when we stopped to look at what was going on outside the high school bubble and how we could positively influence it.

9. A fancy building does not determine the quality of education inside it- but they sure are nice. The greatest school I taught at consisted of several FEMA trailers and sidewalks for hallways. Despite the circumstances, we were still striving for excellence.

10. As a teacher you are an educator, counselor, mentor, coach, friend, parent, sibling, teammate, advocate, and cheerleader. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I was going to come back to Chapman and teach, I would have thought the person was crazy, but this has been an amazing experience. In my heart I will always be a teacher, no matter what the path God leads me on, because I desire with everything in me to leave this world a better place the way only a teacher can do.

It's ironic that as I sit here typing this it's raining- as it was my first day at CHS. It's also ironic that my favorite song is playing- Enough, which talks about how God is enough. He truly is. Whatever direction He leads me in, whatever path I might take, God is enough. And as a teacher, He made me enough.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams