A Letter to Future Teachers: Words of Encouragement

I was talking to my brother the other day about teaching, where things have been and where they might be going. He brought up the fact that my niece wanted to be a teacher, but was worried about doing so. She’s active on social media and has witnessed the struggles that I have gone through trying to decide if I wanted to continue teaching.

People are so hard on teachers and teaching right now. We are in the middle of a war between what is best for our children and what makes the most money for businesses. Our elected officials use education as platforms to further their careers, often to the detriment of those who education is supposed to help. I am not even going to get started on the devaluing of education itself. It’s important to realize that the current environment is doing nothing to create new teachers. If anything, it’s driving them away.

I haven’t been helping. At all.

I’m changing that right now. This is my letter to future teachers. There is hope. Believe in yourself and your love of your students.

__________

Dear future teacher,

I know that times are hard now in the world of education. I know that you may think that it isn’t worth it to enter into the politics of the educational system. And the kids… oh, the kids. You read about how horrible they are, how disrespectful, how disruptive they are. There is even video evidence of their horribleness. It’s no wonder that you’re doubting.

I am writing this to tell you that these things are just a tiny drop in the ocean of education. Yes, it is stressful right now as the government plays tug-of-war using the education system as a rope. Yes, there are some kiddos that are… well… jerk-faces. Some adults are too. It comes with living in society. Unless you want to be a hermit, you’re going to have to deal with it. It’s so much easier to forgive a 15-year old for being an asshole than it is to forgive a 35-year old for acting 15.

Teaching is so much more. It is being there for a young man whose parents are in the midst of an angry divorce, putting him in the middle of it. It is working with a colleague who cares about the kids as much as (maybe even more so than) you do. It is hearing your name screamed across the aisles of the grocery store because you’ve affected that child’s life so much that they are excited to see you outside of school.

Teaching is encouraging the parents of a child who is struggling. Every parent wants what is best for their child, but many don’t know what to do when their child is lost. I have had so many wonderful meetings with parents that started out with tears and frustration and ended with smiles and hope. Teachers have the tools to guide parents and students when they struggle.

Teaching is standing up and fighting for the needs of your students. You are the buffer, their line of defense, holding back well-meaning but misinformed next-best-thing strategies that are supposed to fix education. You translate their “failures” into jumping off points. You protect the children and help them to succeed in spite of the obstacles that the government and administration tosses in front of them.

Teaching is knowing that you are making a difference every day. Every single day. You may not know it at the time, but what you do sticks in your students’ minds. They remember you. They grow because of you.

Teaching is a service. It is often thankless, especially on a day-to-day basis. If you feel that you are called to be a teacher, don’t decide not to because of what you read online or see on television. Those stories always ignore the most important part of education, the essential element that makes it all possible:

the individual

My life has been enriched by my years as an educator. I’ve grown to understand so much about myself and about life because of it. I will never, ever, ever regret my thirteen years as an educator. EVER.

Be a teacher. The world needs you.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

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Year 13 Begins

The next few weeks are going to be very hectic for me. I return to work on August 1 and students arrive on August 8. I will be working on getting my classroom set up and planning my first quarter. One of the challenges that I am (very) excited to face is the implementation of 1:1 technology. For those of you who aren’t knowledgeable in educationese, it means that all of my students will have netbooks and the use of textbooks will be limited. The transition will be fairly easy for me because I don’t generally use the textbook anyway and I had a classroom set of netbooks in my classroom next year. I still have to plan and plan and plan (it makes my brain happy). I’ve decided to take my teaching a step further and make my class inquiry based. It is a big step for me because I give up some of the control that I am used to. Thing is, the kids are fully engaged when you give them a choice.

Another challenge that I face is the fact that I will have to work with new people this school year. Because of teacher movement, half of freshman level teachers are brand new to the school. Some are even brand new to teaching. I love that we have fresh ideas, but I am also sad because our group last year worked well together. They knew me and my quirks. They didn’t get upset when I would hide in my room because I needed alone time. Plus, I get terribly shy and anxious when working with new people. I’m either silent or have¬†diarrhea¬†of the mouth and say the stupidest things! Time to retrain everyone (myself included).

One of the aspects of teaching that I love is mentoring new teachers. I like offering them support and helping them make it through the first few years. Teaching is hard and if you don’t have support, you’ll never make it. True words, those. I’ve already met one of our brand new baby teachers (term of endearment, btw). My first impression of him was that he was T.A.L.L. I have no idea how tall he is, but I had to twist my neck to talk to him. He’s an Algebra teacher, but I won’t hold it against him. (J/K. I love my mathmagician friends. They astound me.) It was exciting to hear his ideas for next year. He is so fresh and so hopeful. I want to help him keep some of that as the year progresses.

I went into work yesterday to get the keys to my classroom. Usually I don’t go into work this far in advance. However, I have a new classroom.

I know! First a new principal then new teachers and now a new classroom. Doesn’t anyone understand my brain?!?!

I have 12 years of teacher stuff. At the end of May, I had to sort through scads and scads of resources to determine whether or not I needed them anymore. I ended up getting rid of/recycling 8 big black garbage bags of things I hadn’t used in a long time. I didn’t realize how cathartic it would be to get rid of so much. Even though I pared down my resources, I still had to pack them up to be moved to my new room.

Here it is, in its natural state:

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Before I can even think about planning or the other hundreds of things teachers do at the beginning of the new year, I have to unpack. Things just don’t work unless I’ve got my little nest set up. The room is so much bigger than my previous one AND it has more storage. You know what the best feeling is, though?

I don’t have enough stuff to fill up the storage space! I don’t feel completely overwhelmed with things. Maybe this will help me in the next school year. I’ll have space to breathe.

This year is looking up already!

Oh, don’t worry, I’ll post my classroom when it is finished. I know ya’ll were skeered that I’d forget to show you the beauty of it. =)

Reason #127 Why I Teach

Today we were eating a special lunch to celebrate my daughter’s kindergarten promotion and a young lady approached me.

Young lady: Hey! Aren’t you Mrs. F.?

Me: Yes, I am.

Young Lady: You are my sister’s favorite teacher. She talks about you all the time.

The catch? I taught her in 6th grade. She will be a senior next year.

Who says teachers don’t make an impact? Crazy people, that’s who.