Teachers Need To Give Up

It’s that time of year again, when summer floaties and outdoor supplies go on sale, and teachers everywhere stand in abject horror as the school supply aisles start to go up (to be shortly followed by the Christmas aisles, but I digress). We scramble to get last minute appointments done, gather as many discounted glue sticks as allowed by law, and get ready for another year.

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Now, every school year begins with a bang for most teachers. We are (sorta) recharged, have dropped off our cares for the last school year, and the bad, bad, snarling student we somehow had assigned not only to our class, but also our study hall, well, his memory is fading. How will we feel in October, however? Or February, which I’m convinced is the longest month of the year no matter what the calendar says? I think we need to just get this out of the way now. Teacher, let’s give up…

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We need to give up basing our worth on other people’s expectations about what a teacher is and what we do.

I know that sometimes it feel like all we do is ‘teach a test’, look at statistics, attend meetings, run copies, enter grades, and clean up, but what we forget is that we have access to young lives that trust us, model us, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, even love and respect us.  All careers begin because someone learned something that sparked an interest. I love Taylor Mali’s poem about ‘What Teacher’s Make’. Let’s get fired up.

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We need to give up thinking that what we do doesn’t make a difference.

Sometimes, we are the only smiling face a child sees in the course of their day. This past year, I had a student who was being bullied at home and school.  His family didn’t have much money, so he wore what he could find, which generally consisted of dirty jeans and a girl’s hoodie.  My fellow teachers and I got together and found him some up to date clothing, got his hair cut for him and even had some extra money put in his lunch account. Another teacher told me she was behind him in line in the cafeteria one day and he was told he had $50 in his account. ‘Wow!’, he said. ‘Someone really loves me!’ His whole attitude in class changed for the better, and he wore a smile with his new clothes.

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We need to give up spending time on trying to be perfect and spend time on being tangible.

I love being organized. I hate chaos, last minute changes, and things beyond my control. What I had to teach myself as a teacher was that it is more important to love your students and really listen to them, than it is to dust that shelf. It is more important to give that pat on the back or that high five, than it is to sweep under dirty shoes. It is more important to make sure the students know that I am there for them, than it is to shoo them away from my desk so I can grade.  The students don’t know if a lesson plan went off without a hitch, and could care less if you have the correct TEK by the test question. What they do care about is knowing that you are human, that you’re not perfect and that it’s okay, and that you care about them.

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We need to give up on blaming ourselves when students don’t like us.

Do you like everyone you know? I would wager that unless you also sing in a hut in the woods and birds and wildlife flock to hear you, the answer is probably ‘no’. Students are the same way. It used to bother me when kids would say ‘You’re my 2nd favorite teacher’ or ‘Mr. so and so is the best on campus’, or ‘I hate your class’. You have to realize that it’s okay. You’re not perfect and neither are they, and sometimes, people don’t gel. You just need to do your job, make sure they learn, and that you’re kind, even when you don’t want to be. (I always have to keep saying ‘You ARE the adult. You ARE the adult’ in my head because I teach teenagers).

Sometimes, they do come around. Just this past year, I had a student that drove me bananas. He clearly didn’t care for me, and the feeling at that point was mutual. Somewhere along the course of the year, he matured a little bit, and by the end he was bringing me flowers and cards. His teacher’s appreciation letter said ‘You are very patient and forgiving. I don’t know that I could be as forgiving as you. Thank you for forgiving me’.

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We need to give up our (occasional) negativity. 🙂

I tend to gravitate toward negativity about October. Why? I’m tired, haven’t had a day off in months, the kids are getting squirrely, and misery loves company. This year, I’m going to watch this video instead. I think sometimes, everyone can use a pep talk. 

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We need to give up leaving the profession.

Not all is perfect in teaching, but it’s not perfect anywhere, in any job. You were chosen to teach for a reason. I say that because I believe that a profession, a calling, literally ‘chooses’ you. If I can reach one kid a year, just one, that leaves my class feeling good about him or herself, it was all worth it. I’m reminded of a very simple, yet poignant story…

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So teachers, let’s give up. Be strong, think positive, and remember that you are the ones entrusted with educating the future. Let’s change the world by giving up what makes us question ourselves, and building up our passion for educating our students.

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Have a great school year!

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