Before I realized it… I received my 5 year pin working for my school district.
I have only taught at this school district; and I have only taught at one school in this school district. Two different subjects and now that I’m starting my 6th year, a little over 1,000 kids.
I took a few seconds pause when my name was called; slightly stunned and in disbelief. Unsure if my name was actually said through the feedback heavy microphone.
As I sat back down, in a state of shock, the number continued to roll around in my mind, unable to garner any traction.
In five years I have moved twice and bought a house, welcomed the birth of my youngest son who is now 4, and have been doing something that I love to do, something that I have found to be my passion.
Yes I can think about all of the lives I have impacted, although to what degree is questionable. I have been fortunate to have several of my students come back and visit me, which is always a joy.
More importantly, teaching has changed me.
(for the better I believe)
It has changed me in a variety of ways. It has exposed me to so many different students that it has allowed me to understand my own teenager in a way that I could not have understood him before. His behavior on the surface appears alien to me so often, when in reality, the things he says and does is within the spectrum of teenagerdom.
My patience has increased over time as I have come to the realization that so much of the extreme behaviors that I see in the classroom and in my own children has more to do with unmet needs, fear, and anxiety, than anything else;
Maslow Before Blooms
My understanding of my own life has increased. Hindsight is always 20/20, but having been around my students has shown me that the anxiety and stress of being a teenager is something that most if not all teenagers experience. The still growing frontal lobe (the part of the brain that is linked to good decision making) is no where near being fully formed (not until 25ish). Which means that the risky behavior that teens exhibit, on some level, can be explained by this underdevelopment. At what other time would it be more fun to push boundaries and take crazy risks? I won’t go into too much detail, but I am very grateful and thankful that I survived my teenage years. And when I think about what my students past, present, and future, are going through right now, it makes my struggles seem more of an annoyance.
My appreciation for my life has increased tenfold.
Knowing what so many of my students suffer and go through on a daily basis has only made me value the time I have with them more and more. It is so important to me to add as much value as I can to their lives, both in knowledge and in creating experiences with them. For so many of them, school is an escape from the struggles they must face, alone, at home. So I want to make sure that when they are with me, they know they are safe, I have their back, and I will do what I can for them… so that they can learn to do for themselves.
Which is why the most important lesson of all that I have learned in my 5 years, the lesson that has impacted me the most:
Do not waste time.
Time is valuable.
There is no way we can put a price on the time we have with our students. We cannot recreate or capture the time we have with them, because they will never be the same once they leave our presence. Their growth is exponential and constant; it is critical that we take advantage of this time and go all in with our craft.
Make them smile, make the laugh, build relationships with your kids. Every single one of your students has an amazing story to tell and a story they are in the middle of writing. As their teacher, you will forever be a part of their story, a 189 day long thread woven into the tapestry of who they are and who they will become as a person. Make sure that you bring the best version of yourself everyday; be present and be all in with them and for them.
Be patient and kind to them, so they will know what that feels like.
Be understanding and listen to their needs, so they will know what that looks like
Be willing to adjust and be flexible, so they will know what that is
If you do all of these things daily, you will not only give them experiences that will shape their brains, but you will have also given them them enough experiences for them to do it for others, and give other people those same experiences.
And when you do this, make sure that at the end of every lesson, every experience, every interaction… you seal it with your smile
And if you are lucky, at the end of 5 years, you could have over 1000 amazing threads of pure potential be apart of the tapestry of your story.