When I became a teacher, I had no inclination of how much my students would impact my life. My first professional teaching position was right out of graduate school. I actually taught at the same elementary school that I went to as a child. I loved teaching there. That district taught me everything. It taught me how to listen and watch my students, to be a team player, a leader and a follower, a resource like encyclopedia of methods of practice were at my finger tips, to be humble and be mindful of the importance of the job at hand. This was a time during the transition of the magnitude of mastery tests, so children and their personalities were equal in value as the scores. Meaningful discussions were prominent in the class setting which allowed for the students’ personalities to be integral to the learning atmosphere.
I am a firm believer that the act of teaching and the pedagogy attached to it is innate. Sure, you go to school and study the art of teaching and earn vast academia that create a well rounded educator, but putting it into practice cannot be taught. You either can do it, or you can’t. I am sure many would argue differently, and that is fine. But for me, it comes down to a lot of theory and reading on the method of instruction and the varied ways to do your job, but instinct is the foundation. When you throw the kids into the mix and all that comes with them, it is then that you realize how massive the job is. What an amazing opportunity to help guide children realize their potential, show them the tools to never give up when struggling, and believe in them. I can name at least two dozen former students who taught me some valuable lessons in my life.
But back to the students. My hope and dream for them all was to feel important, heard, respected and valued. For. Every. Single. One. I have had so many students. 16 years times 20-25 students a class. There are a lot of names, faces, personalities and stories. Each one just as special as the next. I would often look at them as they left our class the last day of school and think of what they will be doing as adults. So many varied interests and talents, the world was really waiting for them to make an impression. Never did it ever occur to me that anything terrible could happen.
As first graders coming into second grade, I would see my future potential students in the hall and secretly wish for names on my class list. The spunky, the spirited, the painfully shy. So many of these little kids impacted me on such a deep level. Mind you, this was before I had children of my own. I had no clue what it was to be a parent or to know what it really meant to love another being. Some to this day, I think of often and wish for them the moon.
One little boy taught me that communication can be just as powerful without words. He saw the world differently and helped me do the same. I learned so much from him. Being “smart” was defined in different ways for each student. There are countless students who I still remember. Not what they scored on a test, but what their interests were, their personalities and unique qualities. A little girl, now a young lady, resonated with me. I only hoped if I had a daughter she would be like her. She had spunk, loved her brothers, laughed with such gusto, could roll her eyes better than me, and was so incredibly funny and smart. Her brother was a spitfire. He was always ready for a one liner, loved math, sports and centers were his favorite. I adored them. I would ask my friend updates on them and loved to hear about how they were and what they were up to. When I learned of some unbelievably heartbreaking news about one of my favorites, my heart was torn. Being a mother now, these lives were even more meaningful and special. Even though I hadn’t seen them in ages, their lives had impacted me and their lives were incredibly important.
Grief and the shock of death leaves imprints on your heart forever. When I think of him, I still see him meandering down the hall, with a spring to his step and a smirk on his face. Priceless. I cannot understand why some things happen in this life. All I know is what and how I feel. My heart is grieving for that little guy I knew as a 7-year-old and now was a young man. My prayers are with his mother who trusted me with her children. To teach them and to let their personalities shine and to always believe in their potential.