Picture this: It's the beginning of the school year. Everyone is so excited to return to school. The floors are freshly waxed and the hallways are spotless. Your school hosts several professional development opportunities that get you pumped for the school year. You have each and every cubby and textbook numbered to match your class roster. Name tags and open house packets are ready to go. Your classroom library is neatly organized, color coded, labeled, and perfect. Your desks or tables are set up into equal groups with a color coordinated basket or shower caddy. You get your Starbucks fresh on the first day of school and you are ready to save the world.
THEN REALITY SETS IN.
You get a new student the first day causing your numbers to be off, dismissal list to be edited and desk arrangement to change. To change your desk arrangement, you have to move a table causing a scratch on the newly waxed floor. You hope the custodian doesn't notice. You forget to turn in a number of beginning of the year documents and checklists to administration because you're focused on confirming how each child will get home today.
You make sure that you send home each open house and parent form home with students who were unable to attend the original meeting. You may or may not allow the students to explore the classroom which results in a tornado of books in your library. You spend the first day of school doing getting to know you icebreakers, name games, and of course, practicing routines and procedures. You swallow your lunch in 10 minutes because you want to ensure that your students get through the lunch line and know where to sit. You're keeping a hawk's eye at recess in the August/September sunshine to make sure Jimmy doesn't fall off of the monkey bars.You return to class to continue tasks such as labeling/organizing notebooks, reviewing procedures and you may have time for a read aloud.
Then it's time for dismissal. After going over this procedure you only hope that there are no mistakes and that all of your kids made it home safely. You finally make it home and are exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted. You think about your kids, and wonder how/if they enjoyed their day. You wonder what you can do to improve or make a difference. As time goes by, testing, parent teacher conferences, and staff meetings roll around causing you to stress even more. You see the data of your kids and wonder "How am I going to do this?" Slowly, Negative Nancy creeps up on you and your positive, bright smile slowly fades. You love your job, but let's face it, it's hard.
In all of the beginning of the year chaos, it can be so easy to overlook what's most important: your students. In my first year of teaching (well half a year, I came in the middle of the school year), I was so overwhelmed that I did not even know one little girl's last name. I felt absolutely horrible. How could I be so selfish? How could I be so careless? It was at that moment I decided to shift my focus and get to know my students.
When some say "know your kids" they may only allude to their academic achievement. In addition to knowing their academic achievement, shouldn't we know them as human beings? Shouldn't we know their personalities? Shouldn't we build relationships with these people that we spend a third of our day with?
Yesterday, I spoke with a teacher who is currently teaching my former students. She looked me in my eyes and said "Miss Peay, you have no idea of the impact you've had on these kids. You are their champion. Never in 14 years of teaching have a seen a school community where teachers know their kids the way you guys do." It brought tears to my eyes because I was so moved and honestly I NEEDED that feedback. Her statement, her encouragement, her appreciation got rid of every bit of Negative Nancy thought in my mind. The phrase "Teach like a champion" is in reference to the following TED Talk video.
I challenge you to accept all the stressful parts of teaching with a positive outlook AND attitude. Grit your teeth and bear it. Even though our days are not perfect and there are days when we don't feel appreciated, I promise that building relationships with your kids will ALWAYS brighten your day. Go get 'em Champ :-)