A couple days ago, one of my colleagues brought up the topic of our expectations as new teachers entering the profession vs. our perspectives now. This year marked my 6th year teaching. I was a career changer from social work. I had no idea how much I would be using the skills from social work as a teacher. I had no idea so many 5 year olds enter school without ever having used crayons or glue, with no knowledge of the letters in their names or how to listen to a story.
So, what did I sign up for? Put simply, I signed up to change little lives. I signed up to give students what I waited so long for, a chance. I had to wait until 4th grade for my teacher “guardian angel”. Before that, I had a teacher who thought I should be tested for a learning disability who moved me from the high math class to the lowest one because I couldn’t do math problems fast enough. My test scores from the previous year didn’t matter. She told me about the move at recess one day in front of my friends. One early teacher called my parents almost daily to discuss my attention issues. She had very little patience for my disorganization and distraction. One teacher had me spend most of my recess time completing unfinished work. I was finishing up my work outside almost daily. Even though I was little, I knew they didn’t want me in their classes, at least it felt that way.If you couldn’t be quiet, sit still, and behave you were not favored. You had to be like Silent Suzie or you didn’t get preferential treatment.
Enter 4th grade teacher. She knew about me. I was a teacher’s kid so it was hard not to. She knew about my previous struggles, but she pretended not to. She got to know me and found my strengths. She helped me get organized (who knew having a different folder for each subject and turning in work as it was completed would help?). She was patient when I asked for the 5th time what we were supposed to do next. I blossomed under her wings. She knew I had a high interest in writing, so she picked me to go to the Young Author’s Convention. I got to meet other kids with the same interests, listen to a published children’s author speak (I soaked up her every word like a sponge),and I got to share poems I wrote about my little rat terrier, Tiny, with a group of gt students. I was one of the only ones not from a gt program. I didn’t feel discouraged by this, I was fascinated. I had the time of my life. My 5th grade teacher was the same kind of angel. She was kind, patient, and understanding, but she also had high expectations. You could not fool her with mediocre effort. She knew better.
I signed up to give all students a chance, whether they are a Silent Suzie or a Talkative Tim. Regardless of their personalities, quirks, abilities, and backgrounds, I signed up to teach them all and to give them my best. I am blessed to be their first experience with education and I get to make it positive. To do otherwise could mean they have to wait for a chance like I did. I’m not going to let that happen.