Well, students have been in their classrooms for four days now. That means teachers have already made 15,781 quick decisions, created 675 adjustments to their lesson plans, logged in 22,000 steps, had 16.5 cups of coffee and lost 73.25 hours of sleep worrying about their next days.
We’re used to it. We thrive in the chaos of the first two weeks of school, and we’ve anxiously awaited August to roll around since that final bell sounded in May. Most people think we’re crazy, though. They wonder how we can get excited for the first day of school when it interrupts our leisure time on the beach or ends our Netflix binges of favorite shows.
It’s simple, really. We love our kids. We don’t even know them very well yet, but we love them already. And we can’t wait to get to know their quirks, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses and then teach them and watch them learn. They are our life’s calling and mission, after all, so when August comes around, we get a little pep in our step and a thrill in our belly.
Even this early in the school year, teachers have already sized up their classes. They’ve mentally noted who will need a little extra encouragement, who’s going to need some extra challenge, and who will probably need an ample supply of redirection. They’ve noted the leaders, the introverts, the rowdy ones, but in just four days, they have made a point to connect with them all, and that ability is what makes teachers so amazing.
They are like the epitome of what we all should be like: accepting of differences, equal opportunists, kind to all. And a classroom could become like a microcosm of what we want our world to be like — a place where all are known, valued, and inspired. Wouldn’t that be grand?
I know I’m biased. Of course, I am, for I am a teacher, and I’ve always aspired to be “that kind of teacher.” But don’t you look back on majority of your years in grade school with fond memories? Wasn’t there a teacher along the way who helped define you? Assisted in altering your life’s pathway? Shattered your fears and spoke life into your dreams?
There may have been a bad apple along the way, and I’m definitely not one to argue that the basket is free from the rotten ones, but I think we all can admit that majority of our grade school teachers had our best interests at heart, and that, my friend, is the essence of the teaching profession. That’s why teachers do what they do.
Because sometimes students need a teacher’s heart.
Like when a second grader’s reputation and discipline rap sheet precede him, but his new teacher chooses to meet him on the first day of school with an open mind and heart. And despite his first day’s angry meltdown, she calmly listens and addresses him as the human being he is and desperately desires to be.
It’s 180 days she spends with him. That’s 180 days of erasing the past and offering a clean slate. It’s 180 days of silencing the screams of the only form of communication he learns at home. It’s 180 days of giving him a chance. It’s 180 days of teaching him and watching him learn and grow and beat the odds. It’s 180 days accepting him where he is but encouraging him not to remain there.
It’s the heart of a teacher like Jasmine Pernell at North Columbus Elementary that can lift a second grader from the fate of his circumstances and place him on a road to a new destiny. Oh yeah, Mrs. Pernell will lose a little sleep over her second graders, for sure. She might drown her worry in cappuccinos, and her Fitbit will work overtime in service to her kids. She’ll become a master at making on-the-fly decisions, and her well-planned lessons will become as pliable as Play Dough. But if her first four days are any indication of what the next 176 days are going to be like, her students are lucky… because she’s one of the good apples.
Most of our teachers are. And to that fact, we are forever grateful, forever indebted, forever changed, inspired, and motivated. Have a great year, teachers. Your efforts don’t go unnoticed.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.