Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cheese, Earplugs, and Family Life Videos: Reflections on 16 Years of Teaching

I am leaving a district full of people who have watched me grow up.

I mean, really grow up.

16 years of growing up.

I was 22 when I began teaching in this school district.  I was directly out of college with no teaching experience. This district supported me, helped me, listened to me, and invested in me.  I am so very much indebted to the brilliant and wonderful people I've worked with here, many who became very close friends.

Next year I will be teaching in another city, closer to where I am moving. I am extremely excited about my new opportunity to work primarily with literacy instruction.  All day! (Dream come true!)

And so, this list is a tribute to my past.

Some Non-Academic Reflections on Teaching After 16 Years:

10. I lived in the neighborhood where I taught. It was weird at first. Kids from school were knocking at my door wanting to play with my own children...or just stalking me, either one. I've become aware of not walking around in my pajamas if there's a chance that a student could be over at our house. (Almost made that mistake once.) I'm also really good at running into students' parents in the liquor aisle and usually just laughing it off. One time, a parent said to me, "I will pretend I didn't see you here if you pretend you didn't see me here." Deal.

9. I was giving ISTEP, our state standardized test, during 9/11. We used to give our state tests in the fall, and I had no idea what was going on because I was closed up in a room giving the test. It wasn't until later that a teacher popped her head in and asked if I knew what was going on.  I didn't.  This was the year that I had a student from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in my class. Her family ended up going back to Riyadh because of the harrassment they were receiving outside of school. I always wondered what happened to her. 

8. After my first year of teaching, I learned that one must never assume that an 8 year old can get on the correct bus in the afternoon. This new learning happened the hard way after the second grader took off walking to his house at dismissal...even though his house was over a mile away. An unhappy parent then threatened to call the school board. Lesson learned. See, first year teachers? We all have these embarrassing stories. The child was fine, by the way. 

This could be the child who decided to walk home. His name is burned into my brain with a scorching hot cattle prod.

7. I became a mom to two children while teaching in this district. I was petrified of going into labor while teaching, and I kept a towel near me at all times, just to be safe. On a side note, it is not enjoyable to be pregnant and be asked to sit in on the "Family Life Videos" that older elementary children watch. One student said to me, "I will never look at you the same way again." Yikes. 

6. Food does come up missing in the teacher's lounge sometimes. At one point, I had a big bag of cheese in the fridge while pregnant with my daughter. And darnit, someone took that cheese. I mean, really, how low can you get, taking food from a pregnant lady? Thankfully, my teaching partner's husband was able to rush to the store for me. How's that for a good friend? Thanks, JK. 


5. Speaking of friends, I didn't expect to make super close relationships with people at school. But I have. And that in itself is one of the reasons it's tough to leave. They become like family. Their families become like my families. In fact, one of those people even performed the ceremony that married my husband and me. You can read about that here.


4. Going overnight to camp with 150 kids is interesting. Fun too. That's another thing I learned. Oh, and if you do go to camp with a grade level of kids, just know that it will either be:
a. Pouring rain
b. Thunderstorming
c. Snowing
d. Blazingly hotter than Hades
And kids snore. A lot. Just sayin'.

Bring earplugs to overnight camp.

3. Having your own kids in the same school where you teach can be awesome but also ridiculous. Here are some quotes I've said in the past 6 years:

  • "Stop calling me Mrs. Mom at school. It's weird."
  • "Who wrote 'Take off your pants and take over the world' on my agenda board??!"
  • "I'll give you a dollar if you go down to the copier and print this out for me."
  • "Get out of the candy basket. That's for my students."
  • "Yeah, sorry, I brought your book to school. I didn't have my own copy so I borrowed yours off your bookshelf. Don't be mad."
  • "Here, you can have your book back. I don't understand why you don't want it, it's not like kids sneezed on it and wiped their rear ends on your book. Ok, maybe they did. I understand why you don't want it back."
  • "Take your scooters with you so you can ride through the halls today. It's Saturday so not many teachers will be there but don't run over anybody."
  • "I'm going to text your teacher right now and tell her what you are doing. I might even take a picture of this tantrum you are throwing and text it to her. How would you like that?"

The daughter, reading in my classroom library after school. This won't happen anymore when she heads to middle school in August.

2. Little kids grow up. And they become big kids. And they become taller than you and smarter than you. And then they come back to visit you and they can't believe how different you look and how small things are. But really, the only thing that changed was those amazing kids who are now in high school and college and beyond. And I cherish them with my entire heart and soul. Because that's why I love my job, not just for what happens in the classroom, but for who and what I am sometimes lucky enough to see 15 years down the road. Love you, Cole, Tony, Chelsea, Abby, Mariah, Christian, Miranda, Bryan, Alex, Alijah, Taylor, Jessica, Maddie and so many others!

Some of my first students looking adorable in costume. Did I think I was neat-looking? Smh.
I love when they come back to visit. "Have you always been this short?" they ask.

1. They took a risk with me, this district. So many years ago. I had no idea what I was doing. Thank goodness my first year didn't determine what kind of teacher I was to become. I was given the chance to take risks. I can never express the gratitude I feel for the chance they took on me.

And we are off to exciting new adventures.