I have been in the business of teaching since I was ten years old. My siblings and cousins were my students and our recreation room was my classroom. When they would cooperate, we would draw, paint, dance, put on plays, identify wildflowers, capture bugs and dissect them, jump rope and go on field trips around the neighborhood. Teaching is in my blood. It’s how I organize my day. It’s not unusual for me to set a timer for 20 mins at home just like I do at school when I am conducting “Center Time”. At home when the timer is set, I begin the tasks of cleaning and organizing. When the timer dings, I just switch to a new room, job, or project. By the end of the day, my house is usually picked-up, organized and ready for the week. Unlike school, at home I am the student and the teacher and a lot of the time the child in me would much rather be at recess than come back inside for math aka bill paying. I can’t say that “Center Time” works as well for me at home as it does at school.
Since I was five, I have had the same yearly schedule. September brings fall and the anticipation of a new school year. That turns into the 6 weeks of holidays beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year. Followed by an intense interest in the weather, while watching for possible snow days. Then begins one of my favorite times of the year, spring and of course Spring Break. However, the rush to the middle of June when the “Break of Breaks” begins is the best because then it is … summer vacation.
My never-ending summer vacation will begin July 2018 when I retire from teaching. I look forward to it because I am being drawn to other projects and travels. I know that I will miss the children, teachers and staff that I have worked with on a daily basis. I am lucky to have been a part of a team of educators who give tirelessly for their students. The parents are very supportive and generous because they want to do what is right for their children’s education. I realize that parent involvement is not the norm is lots of schools and I have seen how important it is to a child’s success. I feel lucky to have witnessed the resilience of children. Most of the time they succeed in spite of the deck that is stacked against them. If they have the right supports at school, there is no stopping them. When the school, family and community unite for the children, a children’s growth skyrockets. My favorite part of all about teaching is when children make that connection, find their gift, realize they are learning and begin trusting what they know. I will miss witnessing that moment when I retire.
In my forty years as an educator, I’ve seen lots of trends come and go. Phonics, no phonics, whole language, no language, sight words only, spelling, no spelling, grammar, no grammar, etc. Some of the trends keep cycling back with the same adage, wait until you see how kids will learn, only to cycle back out. As an educator I know that just one way is not going to reach all students, and to be a good educator you need to know a lot of ways. I also know that if you can’t find one thing that you like about a child, your impact on them will be minimal. You have to connect somehow with them because otherwise, you are wasting their time. Yes, I know some children are not easy, and yes, I know some parents are not easy to either. But to make a difference with that child you have to build that bridge. No trend will ever replace the impact a connection has on a child.
What I won’t miss about teaching is the stress from endless testing and retesting, being at work at 7:20 AM, washing my hands 20 times a day, the trends that come and go only to return 10 years later. always under a catchy new name, enthusiastic new spin, shiny new book, but really the same as what we’ve done before. My daily biological clock is set to go to bed at 11:00 PM and wake up at 7:00 AM or later. This waking before 6:00 AM to be at work by 7:15 AM is not working in my body’s world. I think I might still be on teenager time. I remember going to a talk about how the schools in Japan set up their school day differently from America. The teachers work with students for half a day and then while the students are at their electives, teachers work with their colleagues developing lessons for the next day or days. I thought how wonderful to have that time to research and design lessons that are individualized for the class. If teachers had more time to plan, they would have the most amazing results for their efforts. They also would not have to give up one day a weekend to get it all done. I know that when I retire I won’t miss carrying my work home every night and on the weekends.
You go into teaching to reach children and support them as they discover their potential and achieve their goals. Once in the trenches of school you realize the obstacles that are stacked against you. I have worked at schools with tons of parental involvement and schools with no parental involvement. I have worked with teachers that were just waiting it out until they retired and I have worked with teachers who have committed to doing their best until the very last day they step into the classroom. I have to say that children, our future, need teachers, parents, and community to support them every step of the way. Some will get out and do well in spite of the lack of support. However, most need our commitment to be there for them every step of the way. The blessings of being a part of that commitment have been rewarding. I’m lucky that at ten years old, I followed my calling.