Six Important Lessons

This year, I have an intern teacher in my classroom. It has been an interesting shift, but ultimately, a good one. I’m confident that she’ll be a good teacher when she gets her own classroom but in the interim, I wonder what, if anything, she’s learning from me.

Things I Hope I Teach My Intern

  1. You’re going to make mistakes. Yeah, I know. Way to start with a downer. It’s true, though. Sometimes it’ll be something small, like forgetting to make copies of a math worksheet. Other times it’s something more substantial. Regardless of the mistake, it’s what you do after that matters more. Those are the moments that show your character.
  2. Be humble. Whether you need to apologize to your students for your rotten attitude or you’re dealing with an irate parent, humility is the route you should take. It shows that you’re human too. However, be careful not to mistake being a doormat for humility. It’s a mistake I’ve made in life too many times to count and one that always ends poorly.
  3. If you’re not emotionally healthy, your class won’t be either. This one has actually been something I’ve continually had to keep in check. These kids in the classroom aren’t just sponges academically, they’re emotional sponges as well. When 85% of my class is having a rough day, that usually means that *I’m* having a rough day. Take 5 minutes to stop, regroup, and begin again. Similarly, these 5- and 6-year olds don’t actually have to dictate how I feel about my day. There is more to my life than just that classroom.
  4. Books and lectures cannot prepare you for what you’ll see in your classroom on a regular basis. Pain is a horrible truth in life and even more apparent when you’re a teacher. Kids will come back from long weekends with cracked lips, sunken eyes, and pouchy bellies because they didn’t have food to eat or clean water to drink over the past several days. Or they’ll walk in with dark bruises on their tiny bodies and be unable to tell you where they came from. Some will just sit in a corner and inexplicably cry. Some share stories of times family members have been forcibly removed from their houses, others tell you about that man from the park who touched them in their bathing suit area after he gave them candy. Learning that you’re very limited in what you can actually do for these children is beyond frustrating. These things will boil your blood. If you let it, all of these stories can pile up and overwhelm you until you throw your hands up and walk away.
  5. Love, first and always. I’m confident that this is why I’ve been successful in my career and still have a decent-sized portion of my sanity. I spend a massive amount of energy each day making sure that all of my students completely understand that their teacher loves them. Even the ones that drive me batty. Because regardless of how crazy that one kid makes you feel, that’s someone’s most important, precious thing in the world. Every single child deserves (and needs!) to hear that she’s wonderful, beautiful, creative, brilliant, unique, and every other attribute she possesses. Not just once, but continually. When you show people that you know they have worth, you build a stronger relationship.
  6. This job is so much harder than anyone outside of it believes. And still, it’s completely worth it.

Under Pressure

“…I’m an old lump of coal.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m hoping if I put enough pressure on you I’ll get a diamond.”

I have had a rough few weeks.

School, for teachers, began three weeks ago. I spent the first week stressing out about whether or not our school would have enough children registered in kindergarten for all four of us on the K team to keep our jobs (for many, many days, we sat at 12 kids/classroom) and wondering if having a full-time intern was actually a good decision. I’ve never had an intern before (or done a teaching internship, for that matter) and the idea of a full-time, “I’m-there-when-you’re-there” person seemed so much less overwhelming in April when Caity was hyping me up for it. “You’ll be so great! I’ve learned so much from just being in your class for 30 minutes a week, your intern is going to be so lucky!” Now that my intern was actually there with me, I felt really inadequate and worried about whether or not she’d learn anything useful from me.

The second week for teachers was the first week for students. Most of the kids I’d seen at Meet the Teacher came back for Day 1 of school (one registered for kindergarten with us, filled out the paperwork I had at Meet the Teacher, and subsequently moved to a city 30 miles south of us. I’m choosing to see those as unrelated events). The problem with Day 1 of school in kindergarten is that it is literally the first day of school that some kids have ever had. It is nerve-wracking and difficult and thankfully, my principal understands that. He told us that as long as we get them to the right rooms, make sure they eat lunch and send them home safely, we’ve been successful on Day 1. No one cried, everyone ate lunch, and they all got home safely. Win.

This past week I tried to remember that I can’t compare this year’s kids to last year’s kids. Including the obvious reason that they’re just different kids, I remember last year’s kids at Day 180 and these kiddos just haven’t had the chance to get to that yet. They’ll learn the routines and procedures and so far, they’re soaking it all up. We’re learning Kagan structures, independence, and kindness. We know why we have rules, we know who the boss is, and we understand the consequences of not following directions. And for only being 10 days in, that’s pretty fantastic.

This past Friday I planned to drive down to spend the weekend with Andy, help him with a project and have good quality time. The past few weeks have been pretty stressful and he promised me a relaxing Friday night, which I was looking forward to. Only when I woke up Friday morning (late) at 5:45 a.m., the first thing that happened was the filling my dentist had put in a little more than 12 hours prior fell out. Literally, I was still in my bed. After the wave of panic subsided, I left a message for the dentist explaining what had happened, packed my car and headed out for work.

I should explain that when the dentist did this particular filling, the root/nerve/whatever it’s called of my tooth became exposed. He put a covering on it and explained to me that in the future, it would be likely that I’d need a root canal but that this would help delay that process.

Did you know that an exposed nerve + coffee = pain? Or that an exposed nerve + air = pain? I tried to teach my class on Friday. I really, really did. I had plans and goals and everything but about 30 minutes in, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. The office found a sub for me and after a few phone calls, the dentist’s office set up an appointment for me at noon to have an emergency root canal at an endodontist‘s office.

[This is the part where I am reassured that I picked the right boyfriend.]

At this point driving up 13th Street, I had a meltdown, pulled over, and texted Andy. He had offered a few hours prior to scrap our plans and I had (pridefully) written that idea off because I had planned to go down and help him with his project. He had told me he could come up here instead and when I finally called him to ask if he would, he told me he’d run to his house after work and drive up.

Right now, we’re sitting on my couch. He’s been working on fixing my phone issues and I’ve been finalizing lesson plans for next week. He showed up two nights ago with flowers and fancy bacon from Lucky’s. We’ve had great conversations, cracked jokes, and fallen a bit more for each other. Peeking up at him over my computer monitor, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am. The past few weeks have been stressful, but I have an amazing man who will change his plans to support me when I need it. Having him in my life is a blessing that I plan to not take for granted.