If you’re a teacher at my school, you learn quickly that nearly half the students in your class are not wearing clean clothes. You’re no beautician but you’ve learned to twist hair and make ponytails. You know 1st graders cuss better than sailors. You know some students will tear up your classroom in the morning then ask you for a hug in the afternoon. You know there is a child who shows up to school like it’s a part time job, only coming a few days a week. If you thought children didn’t suffer with mental health issues, some of your students have proven you wrong. Even if you didn’t grow up below the poverty line, if you teach at my school you have intimate details of what it looks like. It’s not surprising to you that some parents take your call and others don’t have a working number on file. You don’t use standardized test to measure your effectiveness in the classroom, because you know most of the 4th graders in your class are reading at a 2nd grade level and you’re just happy they started writing their name with a capital letter. You want to forgive and forget the actions of these students who are often times just a product of their environment, but truth be told, there are some students you simply wish to forget.
You question if you’ve made a mistake by going into this profession. Every other week you contemplate turning in a resignation later, but for whatever reason, you don’t. You pray today will be better than yesterday, and sometimes it is, while other times better is far away. People tell you that just because you can’t see the difference doesn’t mean you’re not making a difference. It sounds good, but it wasn’t quite what you had in mind when you signed up for this job. And as the years go on, it is painstakingly clear this is the job if you teach at this school. You could work somewhere else, but you choose here. Every day you show up, you choose this job, you choose this school, you choose this community, you choose these students. If you’re a teacher at my school and you’re not up for the job, you may in fact want to choose something else.
I went to a retirement party at the school I previously taught at and I was inspired to keep choosing teaching. It is not for the faint of heart at any school and when you choose a school in a particular area, you better be sure it’s what you want to do. I’m still figuring out the how of teaching, like how do I show love and discipline, and how do I set my expectations high while still placing them within reach. The two teachers who were celebrated at the retirement party reminded me to keep remembering “my why,” and the how will follow. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can choose my career and I choose to teach where I teach because I believe God has given me a unique ability to foster light in children no matter what kind of darkness they face. I am the light of the world and God has graced me to share that light with His children.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.