Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Joys of Teaching

Yesterday I had the honor of being asked to come speak to some awesome middle school 6th graders about social responsibility and why we founded Friends of Texas Public Schools. Yes, I got to spend the entire day teaching in the classroom again!!! Notice my choice of words just then. "Got to." Not "had to." That's the way I've always felt about teaching. For me it's never been a "had to" kind of "job."

However, I discovered that after spending the last few years outside the regular classroom (I still and always will think of myself as a teacher, my classrooms are now filled with adults and are all over the state, but still...a teacher) there were a few things that I had forgotten about the day to day joys of being a public school classroom teacher. Most of them are things that only a teacher really understands and are sometimes frighteningly consistent throughout our public school system.

For instance, the smell. Now some of you probably just cringed. It's not a bad thing! Not an odor exactly, it just smells like school. For those of us who have spent the better part of our years in school, it's comforting in a way. Like the smell of home, a place where you "fit."

The sounds. It's loud, but in a good way. There is something about that sound of excited chatter and slamming lockers that makes me happy in a way I can't describe. The happy-to-see-you greetings from students..."Morning Mrs. Milder." I spent my career in high school and one of my favorite things was getting out of my car in the mornings and hearing the drum line practicing before school. The sounds of the over-worked copy machine, the phone ringing in the front office, bells ringing every 55 minutes or so. Great sounds.

The people. Being with colleagues that feel like family. These are "your people," the ones who are wired up like you and understand you like no one else, because they too feel called to be a part of this craziness called teaching.

The routine. Again...not a bad thing. We come in, the bell rings, announcements, pledges, attendance....Greatness I tell you! It's been my experience working with kids that they often crave that routine and the structure it provides, it's comforting for them as well.

There are other things too:
Adjusting the thermostat in your room with an unbent paper clip...or trying to!
Being locked out of the building and banging on that skinny window in the door with your car keys while praying a custodian hears you and lets you in.
Saving every toilet paper roll and egg carton because you might need them for an art project.
Keeping your "good" pens and notepads under lock and key.
Finding the exact middle of an ABC line so that it will be exactly centered over your board.
Standing in your roller chair to put up your ABC line because there is not a ladder to be found.
Saving old socks because they make great white board erasers.
Knowing the precise time(s) each day when you can go to the bathroom.
Being so excited the night before school starts that you can't sleep.
Tracing around a kid's foot on cardboard and going on your conference period to buy him a pair of shoes because it's freezing out and his toes are poking through the pair he's got.
Tearing up watching a kid walk down the hall carrying his cap and gown.
Watching "the light come on" when a student finally "gets it."
Finding a Post-it note on your desk written by the kid who makes you want to rip your hair out that says "Mrs. Milder kicks butt!"

When I walk through the halls of my own children's school I'm wearing my "mom hat", but my "teacher glasses." And, I LOVE what I see. I am grateful every day for the experiences that my children are having in Texas Public Schools. It gives me great joy as someone's mom to know that the people in our schools want to be there and love their jobs. ALL aspects of the job..the smells, the noises, the highs, the lows, the frustrations and celebrations. But most of all...I know they love my kids and will do whatever it takes to see them learn and be successful.

Lately when I watch the news and follow all the budget talks and articles about teacher layoffs, these are the things I think about. Not the consequences of using the Rainy Day Fund, or numbers and dollars signs. It's far more personal for me than that. They are the people who loved and nurtured me through my own public school experience, who taught beside me and shared their knowledge and experience, who will spend their own money to purchase the supplies needed to make sure their students learn and who are loving and nurturing my own children through their school experience.

Next month is Teacher Appreciation. I urge you to look up "that" teacher and give him/her an update about yourself (I guarantee they'd love to know!) and say THANKS. It'll mean more to them now than ever!


Follow Leslie on Twitter @FOTPSambassador

P.S. Thanks to my awesome teacher friends for sharing their #thingsonlyateachergets on twitter :) You guys ROCK!