“What do YOU love about being a teacher?”
This caption accompanied a post on Facebook about World Teacher Day today, and I knew it wasn’t something I could answer in just a sentence or two.
I’ve been amazed this year by the similarities and differences between my first year of teaching and my second year of teaching. And while I loved my kids so much last year, and everyone who knows me knows how much I always gushed about them, there’s something amazing to me about the fact that I can love my group this year just as much! But this year, my love for them is different – it’s so much more apparent to me and easy to articulate in so many ways. Last year, I remember talking about how lucky I was to have such a great class. I joked around with people that I might have a rude awakening this year if my new students weren’t as angelic as last year’s. I also used to say that I wasn’t sure of my impact on the group, and that this year would be telling to see if last year’s group was just magical or if it was my leadership that set the tone for the year. I’ve only recently come to realize that me calling my kids angels last year and talking about how “good” they were was just my way of sharing how much I loved them. In all honesty, they weren’t angels! We had an amazing year and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but it wasn’t as if I went to school each day and could just sit back and watch them interact perfectly and teach themselves! Lots of teaching, prodding, and encouraging went into these kids every single day. I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I left feeling that my kids were such good kids because I saw the way they worked to grow and learn each day. Even when they messed up, you could feel the love between us under the surface and we knew it would be okay. As a first year teacher, I wasn’t sure how okay it was to profess your love for your class every day. And while my coworkers joked because I did talk about how great my class was ALL THE TIME, I still did it in a way that wasn’t quite putting into words what was really going on.
This year, I LOVE my class and I LOVE their hard work and I LOVE their enthusiasm and I LOVE their eagerness to adapt and learn.
I don’t need to call them angels or say that they’re perfect to know that I love them every day. In the days before this year began, I tried to think back to whatever “magical” thing I did last year to create our classroom dynamic. I couldn’t pinpoint any specific thing, so I just knew I’d have to wing it again this year and use everything I learned last year to make this one even better. Now that we’re almost done with the first quarter, I can again say that I don’t know what magical thing has been done in our room.
What I can say is that my kids feel the love from me every day and this is something I now KNOW. This makes a difference, and it only makes me approach every day with a fresh heart and positive attitude so the love in our room can keep growing.
In our room, love looks a little like this (I’d like to add to/rearrange/reword this list and potentially make it into its own post – but for now, these are the things that make my heart happy every day):
The kids give me spontaneous hugs as they come back from lunch because they missed me while they were gone for 25 minutes.
All my students drag their chairs around my desk during our quiet work time so that they can work right next to me.
When there’s no homework written on the board, someone always adds “come in with a positive attitude!”
After two students had to write their names on the board today for goofing off in line, they came to me at separate times to apologize for their behavior (this is definitely not necessary and they know that once an issue is taken care of we all move on, but them caring enough to apologize shows me they respect and care for me, too).
Yesterday when someone said that our new math topic was easy, that same student chided himself for saying it and reminded everyone that we needed to keep the whole class feeling safe in the classroom. Hearing these words from a student’s mouth in this way reaffirmed everything I’ve known about kids hearing your every word and taking what you say to heart.
We only allow positive attitudes in our room, so my kids cheer when it’s time to write notes, take quizzes, or do anything else equally boring. A quick, “do I hear complaining?” takes care of any stray comments we get in the 8th week now that might not be wholly positive.
I make sure to verbalize my thoughts to the kids. Today before sending them off to specials for their first block, I took a minute to share how proud I was of their hard work and their determination to try a new testing strategy we learned last week. I shared how I was grading papers at 11pm last night with a huge smile on my face. And I shared that I was so happy to have them in my class. This took less than 1 minute, but the proud looks on their faces didn’t come off till much later! 🙂