Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Do I Stand For?

Last week, with the beginning of a new month, my principal challenged the students to answer the question What Do I Stand For?  She explained that she wanted each kid to really think about the question - think about who they are and what they believe in.  Pretty deep stuff for kids to think about.  Just as deep for me when I started thinking about it.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had some days where I've really had to stop and take a few deep breaths before I could continue.  There have been days where I've had to fight back tears of frustration.  I've also doubted myself, my abilities as a teacher a few times.  And I think that I've had those issues because of who I stand for.

When I became a teacher, I didn't do it because I wanted to teach kids how to read or how to add or how to explain the life cycle of a plant.  Thinking about my dream career for twenty five years wasn't associated with the money I'd make.  While there have been times where I've become very excited about the amount of time I get off each year, that wasn't even the biggest reason of swaying me to the field of education.  The ultimate reason I chose the career path I did was because I wanted to help kids.

I want to help them overcome any struggles they may have at home.  I want to help them believe in themselves.  I want to help provide inquiry and interest in future goals and dreams.  I ultimately want to guide them in the direction of being able to answer the question What Do I Stand For?  And the answer being positive, full of hope and inspiration.

All through college and even last year when I was working as a teaching assistant, my heart was full of the belief that there was no child out there I couldn't teach or help.  I was confident in my passion for wanting to change lives.  It's a little cliche, and pretty much what every new teacher believes... but regardless, that belief meant everything to me.  It still does.

However, there have been several occasions in the past couple of weeks that I've doubted that belief.  I've fought back the tears of frustration that came with that doubt.  I've sat with my head in my hands wondering what I could do differently, what magic I could conjure, what techniques I could try to just get across what I was trying to do.  And it hasn't been easy AT ALL.

But, I suppose, the answer comes in that ultimate question:  What Do I Stand For?  Am I someone that gives up when times get hard?  Am I someone that throws in the towel?  Am I someone that just gets by each day skimming along just waiting for the year to be over so that I can try again next year?

HA!  You all know me better than that, right?  I hope so.

I stand for determination.  Life not being easy means challenge.  I crave challenge.  When I start to believe I can't do something, I fight as hard as I can to disprove it.

I stand for change.  I have constantly heard and made the statement "If it's not broken, don't try to fix it."  But, when I'm broken I need to fix it.  When I start to doubt myself, I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I can do differently to make the changes I need to make.

I stand for inspiration.  I may not be able to get some of my 4th graders reading at grade level by the end of the year - no matter how much I try - but if I can inspire my students to have the drive to want to do everything in their power to do better, be their best, strive to overcome their obstacles, then I'm doing my job correctly.

I stand for quality not quantity.  I honestly don't care much about what the test scores say about my kids.  Those scores are numbers.  Some may be accurate, some most definitely aren't.  I look for the every day successes.  I can see what my kids are achieving.  I can see the growth they are making each and every day.  And when I get a report of test scores on my desk that doesn't show any improvement, I just need to file that report away with the rest of the stuff that I refuse to let drive my passion instead of dwelling on it. 

I stand for motivation.  Regardless of how down I get, I am recharged with motivation.  I look at what I'm doing and monitor and adjust.  I can't just drone on hoping that the kids will eventually get it.  If they aren't getting it now, I need to change now.  I need to find what makes them tick, what fills them with hope, what provides them the motivation they need to do better.

I stand for love.  If there was no love in my heart, I just couldn't do what I do.  I couldn't be the person I am.  Love of those kids, my job, my beliefs, and my dreams are what drives the engine.  I look at every single one of my students and ask myself how I would treat them if they were my own, biological kid - and treat them that way.  That may mean getting tough with them when they are lazy or not trying.  That may mean taking away privileges when they break the rules.  That may mean just giving them a hug when they are trying and frustrated.  That may mean just being there for them to talk to, confide in.  And that most definitely means never giving up on them.  NO MATTER WHAT.

I truly, absolutely, without a doubt believe that my passion and desire to be a teacher for the past twenty five years has made me who I am today.  It has made me the mother I am.  It has made me the daughter I am.  It has made me the fiance I am.  And, I am now the teacher I've always set out to be.  The dream is real, now.  I have to follow the drive and heart that has got me by for all these years and do what I set out to do... change lives.

THAT, my friends, is what I stand for.


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