Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Naked Truth

Many of you may know that I have been heavily weighing leaving my post as first grade teacher. It pains my heart a little to say that. I *love* what I do!!!! I love the *excitement* and *energy* a room full of children possess. I love the honest curiosity they have...their little minds trying to discover the world around them! I love watching the connection form between what they know and what they will one day become. I love making learning fun and then sitting back as they take it to the next level (because they ALWAYS will if you give them the chance)!

I credit my first grade teacher with almost any interest I've ever shown in education. I've had some other special teachers along the way, but Mrs. Jones was always my favorite!
I met my *very best* friend in first grade and we became inseparable (BFF4SAA). For years and years whenever we saw Mrs. Jones around town she would Always! Without! Fail! ask about our 'other half.'
Up until 8th grade, Mrs. Jones not only recognized us, but REMEMBERED us name, together or apart.
I moved a couple years after that and lost touch with Mrs. Jones, but I've always wanted to find her again...
Two memories of that year, however, stand out in my mind more than any other.

Back in college, I took these memories, along with many others, and thought about them...long and hard. Analyzing them from the perspective of 'the learner' and searching for clues as to the kind of teacher I wanted to be.

The first memory? Sitting on the rug surrounding Mrs. Jones' piano every morning after announcements and *singing* America.

Gathering around Mrs. Jones' piano stuck with me through all these years. It had *nothing* to do with academics, but it was a cozy memory that stuck with me all this time. There's an importance to that!

I remember it as a fun and calming time. It was also comfortable and safe. We were family. This experience taught me that the learning environment plays a central role in how much students absorb.

I mean let's face it...with the right enthusiasm, you can make ANYTHING fun to a 6 year old!

The second memory is much harder for me to revisit and way more also has to do with singing. I asked to go to the bathroom and proceeded to belt out a song while in there (probably New Kids on the Block). When I exited the bathroom I found the *entire* class lined up right outside the bathroom door, waiting on me, and snickering at my impromptu concert.

I was humiliated!! It sounds so innocent, but oh the humiliation!! Your brain remembers negative imprints better than positive, it's a survival adaptation. This taught me even the smallest thing, however insignificant, can be devastating to a child.

The following quote by Haim Gainett has always had a spot in my classroom. I read it on the days that I need to be reminded of my own influence.

"I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am THE decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher, I possess the tremendous power to make
a child's life miserable or joyous.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations it is my response
that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated,
a child humanized or dehumanized."

You'll have to excuse me for a minute (30 minutes?). I have to toot my own horn. You see, I'm good at what I do! Really good. The first couple years were a little rocky, but I found my balance. It clicked.

Honestly, I've come to the conclusion that a good teacher is only about 10% educator. Much like parents, teachers' jobs encompass so much more then the 'description tag' says.

I, counselor, judge, police officer, nurse, politician, crossing guard, journalist, mediator, accountant, secretary, graphic designer, lawyer, motivational speaker, tech support, pest control, garbage collector, waitress...I could keep going...and on top of all of that ~ shoelace tier.

I've been told that I'm "just like one of the kids." (That's a compliment, right?).

That my kids "know what's expected of them and do it!"

The dance teacher, who sees every class in the school on a weekly basis, told me that my kids were always quite cooperative! She also said she can often see a teacher's personality reflect on their students... & she wanted to come observe me in her planning time! Wow ~ I was very flattered! We were already a revolving door of visitors, so I told her to come on down!

On the first day of pre-planning last year, I walked into the auditorium to find one of my (non- education) professors sitting at one of the tables. After teaching in the honors program at the college level for YEARS, this person decided to try out the other end of the spectrum...kindergarten!

We are very similar... quiet types, who probably have already heard, considered, and processed the conversations of the three surrounding tables while also talking to you (in teaching this is called 'withitness'; at home Tim says it's 'being nosy'). I was slightly astonished as our rolls changed and this person actually came to me for advice throughout the year!

This year I was nominated for teacher of the year. I didn't get it, but I was highly honored to be nominated!

I was even more floored to find out my self-proclaimed mentor had nominated me (she didn't know she was officially mentoring me... This is the person that I came home from the first day of pre-planning last year and told Tim, "I want to be just like her when I grow up!!!").

Most touching to me, however, are comments from parents. The ones who actually entrust their special-little-bundle-of-joy to me.

A parent came up to me at the end of the year this year and expressed the most sincere gratitude "for getting their child off on the right foot in school and for getting them excited about learning."

*tear* This is THE reason I became a teacher. Life-long learners... a curiosity that extends beyond the classroom and outside textbooks.

So why do I want to leave teaching?
Notice I didn't say quit? You see, I'm not quitting! If I were quitting I would be giving up, failing. I'm not doing that. I've had a very successful ride on the teaching rollercoaster! It's now time for me to decide if I want to go around again next year. I absolutely love teaching first grade and could go on doing it forever.

BUT I also have another opportunity, one that extends itself to few people. After much questioning and wondering and debating, I've decided that I have to take this opportunity!!! I resigned from my job this week. I'm no longer teaching first grade (I'll wait for your jaws to be picked up...)

The Opportunity: Join my life, work, and love together as one.

I am now the full-time, salaried 'Executive Officer' of a bright, up-and-coming Graphic Design and Marketing Company... which happens to be owned by my husband.

Honestly, this was a VERY hard decision. I got a little mad after Tim brought it up for the first time! You see, we've joked about this for years. I always told Tim that I would be his first employee...he resisted. Then one day...somewhat out of nowhere...he took me out to a very nice dinner and proposed a change of life. My reaction: "WHAT?!? NOW?! Why on Earth didn't you ask me this BEFORE??" I was shocked! It took some time and thinking. I had a hard time leaving the *safety* of teaching, but now that I have, I'M EXCITED and READY FOR WHAT LIES AHEAD! It's all or nothing...and it's up to us alone! A Challenge! Our possibilities are endless...


Anonymous said...

What an excellent blog!!! You ARE good at what you do!! Even if your "teaching life" has been short, I'm sure there are a few of your first graders that will remember you like you remember Ms. Jones. They were lucky to have you as a teacher. Just as you are good as a teacher I'm sure you will take that excellence with you as you start out on this new adventure with Tim. As I have said many times before "spread your wings and soar as far as you want" "Thus, the beginning of a new chapter in your Book of Life".
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Emily said...

I love you, Mom!

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