It was around this time last year that I decided to stay home with my little one instead of go back into my classroom as a third grade teacher. The years I spent teaching and learning in my classroom are ones that I hope to never forget and contain lessons I intend to pass on to my sweet girl in the years to come. While there were undoubtedly long, hard days I can honestly say that I loved working as a full time classroom teacher. There was always at least one moment in my day that brought me light and joy and confirmation in my career’s vocation.
This week was teacher appreciation day (or week for those districts that like to celebrate their teachers for more than one day – which I fully approve of:) and I always loved that teacher appreciation day/week usually coincided with mother’s day weekend because I always felt like a mother to my students. I was with them for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and sometimes even longer if I needed them to stay for tutoring or after school events. By the end of the year my students and I would always develop this comfortable, familial rapport with each other. They knew about all of my daily, quirky habits like what days I would eat in my classroom and work through lunch, what names I would use in my word problems during math, my obsessive love for manatees, they even knew which afternoons I needed a diet coke. In turn, I learned about their funny little preferences and had the privilege of watching them grow and learn over the course of the school year. I was their school mom, and they were my 20 wild, crazy kiddos. The relationships that form in a classroom are just as in explicable as those with your family members. There is that sense of comfort and warmth and nurturing found in those walls and among those tiny desks.
I think about the day that my little one will walk up the steps and meet her Kindergarten teacher and the relationship that they will form over the course the academic year. All of the learning she will do and all of the hard work, dedication, and patience her teacher will endure over those long day and short months. I think about the trust and encouragement her teacher will need. I think about the hours her teacher will spend grading papers, sorting through books, and writing my daughter’s name on name tags. My appreciation for my former coworkers and friends has grown exponentially as I have started my family. While I am no longer working 12 hour days in the classroom, prepping science experiments and writing lesson plans and I am working on a much smaller, part-time scale I still think about what a great calling it is to be a teacher. To get to be even a small part of a child’s life is such an incredible thing. To all my teacher friends out there – happy teacher appreciation day! I hope your students and families have showered you with words and gifts of encouragement because you have more than earned it.
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” -Pericles