Love God. Love people.

Love God. Love people.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The February Shift- An Open Confession of a Teacher

It’s an inevitable shift that somehow happens every year around this time. 

Teachers— We look back at what has been, and we see ahead, a light at the end of the tunnel, and know that our days in this year, with this class are numbered. The calendar see-saw has tipped.  What seemed in September an infinite number of days to take attendance, and bathroom breaks, and vocabulary tests is now getting closer to the blessed end.

Also inevitable, rewinding to October, is when those true colors begin to show...we have a parent phone call (or a few), a lunch situation, consequences, and I begin to think, “I cannot do this for thirty years. I come home exhausted, utterly exhausted. The kids I had last year would never have done this. I never would have dared to _________ (fill it in) as a child myself.” 

 My mind is made up by November that I am not an effective teacher. This curriculum is harder than ever and the behavior of the students is more challenging than ever. Christmas break is a welcome sight, and even then in my dreams, I can hear the voices of my students that NEVER. STOP. TALKING.

I know very well that in their spare time, they are watching Youtube channels and playing lightning-paced video games at home. I am a mere mortal just trying to teach linking verbs through a song, and I will never be able to keep up with their preferred forms of entertainment.  I also know that if they approach my desk one more time as I am trying to grade these science tests, I am going to lose it. 

Oh! The interruptions! 

For when I give directions, lining up for art class, passing out papers, talking privately with a student— it is always with the drone of a motor of chatter in the background, usually from the same few whose names have already been moved twice on the stoplight chart this very morning.

But, this shift, this transforming, is subtle. After the second round of parent teacher conferences, and after I’ve tried more than a dozen seating charts, I realize that I have become familiar with their ways. All of them. I have also come to understand why that certain little girl comes to talk to me about nothing at all at least eight times in a day....or why that boy just cannot get to school on a regular basis. The student who never brought a single piece of homework back is not personally sabotaging my teaching, but simply is surviving when she gets home. 

I see them in their humanness. I see their weaknesses as evidence of their reality at home. Even my kids with stable, functioning environments at home— I see their quirks, their faults, their personalities at work amongst  and sometimes against those less fortunate in my room. And you know what?

I love them. 

I adore them. 

This is the February shift.

They cannot help being themselves. They are not an interruption...they are my purpose. It may have taken me six months, but I get there. I have arrived at that stage of fully accepting them, and teaching them in whatever capacity they will have me. I do it every year.

What might have felt like chaos and too much noise is still very much present, but my perspective has changed, giving each of them an advantage, of which some need more than others.  Kids are kids. And I, honest-to-goodness, enjoy them. I realize I can and may do this for 30 years.

These ones entrusted to me for 180 days will slip in and then right back out beyond my realm, my classroom. What I pray they know is that their 3rd grade teacher gave it her all, and felt for each of them dearly. They are valued, and I hope I am contributing something positive and meaningful in these early days of their lives. 

Thank God for the February shift.