That would be my job. And the word "job" isn't really the right word. It's my dream career, and the position I've waited my whole life to have. I am a teacher, and every single day I am thankful for that title.
Anyone that knows me knows that I've wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old. Throughout the almost twenty-five years between wanting to be one and actually becoming one, I never found a career path that gave me the rush of excitement or joy that I expected to come from teaching. And I tried, Lord knows did I try. I've worked in retail, fast food, restaurants, call centers, factories, corporate offices, legal, and medical environments. I've been a waitress, a cashier, an administrative assistant, a legal assistant, a certified nurse's aid, a factory line worker, a medical assistant, and a customer service rep. All of those jobs offered insight in to the many college avenues I could have chosen, had any of them spiked enough interest to do so, but they didn't. I only had one desire when I first walked on to a college campus: Find the offices of education studies.
For four, long years, I worked my behind off in order to get my degree and my teaching license. But, all the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. I felt so much pride and accomplishment as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, and knew that my life was truly starting from that moment.
In 2012, I was hired to be a 4th grade teacher in a tiny little town in Missouri. And I cried when I was offered the job. The overwhelming sense of joy and relief just broke me in to tears. The principal that offered me the job didn't know me from Adam, yet she saw something in me I'd been hoping SOMEONE would see in me. The passion and drive I had to be a teacher. Not just any teacher, but the best teacher I could be. And she gave me the chance to do exactly that.
Since that day, not a day has gone by that I haven't been thankful for the opportunity and done everything in my power to live up to that expectation. It's an extremely high expectation, which is why I think I have such high expectations for my kiddos. Each and every kiddo that has stepped foot in to my classroom as one of my students has become "my kid". I have and will always love them as if they were my own children. Right now, I'm up to about 70 kids that I have been blessed to have in my classroom over the course of the two and a half years, and that number will continue to grow each and every year.
Words can't really explain how awesome it feels to walk down the hallway and be hugged by a sixth grader that I had in my classroom two years ago, or a fifth grader that had me as a teacher last year, or a current fourth grader that all thank me for pushing them so hard. And I'm so thankful that each of those situations happen pretty much daily. I do push them, extremely hard, but the payoff has been and still remains totally worth it.
I consider myself to be a tough teacher. I'm pretty sure any of my previous or current kiddos will agree with that. I push them hard, but when they are able to overcome some of their biggest struggles, it starts to make sense to them. I am who I am because all that matters to me is to see them succeed. That success comes in a variety of ways. It has nothing to do with grades or test scores. It has everything to do with them being able to do things they think they just can't or won't ever be able to do.
When I have a student that comes to me reading and doing math on a 2nd grade level, I make them a promise. I promise them that I will do everything in my power to get them on grade level by the end of the year. I make that promise and make them promise me that they'll work just as hard as I will in order to make it happen. And then I do everything in my power to keep that promise. While I haven't been able to get all of them exactly where they need to be, every single student that has ever been in my class has made TREMENDOUS gains over the course of the year, and I am so proud of them all for the hard work they put in.
The same can be said for the kids that come to me on grade level. Just because they are where they need to be doesn't mean I don't push them any less. They still receive the same form of challenge and motivation to continue to excel and increase their learning. There's no reason that a child on grade level should just mosey their way on through 4th grade just because their on track, it just means I have to make them set their sights on a higher level and work hard to get there.
Teaching isn't an easy job. It requires a lot of time, effort, and patience. Not just that, but I also have to be a mother, a nurse, a counselor, a janitor, an analyst, and a customer service rep. Many of my kids have needs that extend well beyond the classroom, and I consider it my job to make sure those needs are met. A kid that has a really rough home life isn't going to worry about how well they can read and do math. So, I have to first and foremost make them feel safe and loved enough to worry about those things. It can definitely be a tough job, but a job I wouldn't trade for the world.
I am so thankful that I can wake up each and every morning and be excited about what the day has in store for me. I constantly have ideas popping in to my head, and I am always thinking about how I can make my teaching better. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I think I am satisfied with my teaching. I want to continue learning, just as much as I want my kiddos to continue learning. I make mistakes, I fail, I sometimes push too hard, but they are all learning experiences. I feel that those things are inevitable if I'm going to continue on my journey of being a great teacher.
There are people that sometimes disagree with my methods, think that my expectations are too high, or just think that I waste too much time worrying about how I'm going to help my kiddos to love learning. But, those people just don't get it. My methods reflect who I am as a person, a parent, and a teacher. I never implement a method in to my classroom that I know my kids can't adapt to or will eventually support. I will never EVER lower my expectations. Because even though I'm only in my third year of teaching, my high expectations have spoken for themselves. No matter how high I raise the bar, my kiddos have eventually met those expectations. And I will gladly waste time changing what I teach in order to reach and excite my students. One size doesn't fit all. I know this and embrace this in my classroom.
Do I have students that struggle and get to the verge of giving up? Absolutely. Do I just give up on them and make life easier so that they no longer have to struggle? Absolutely NOT. The struggle is a part of the journey. Even though I teach 9 and 10 year olds, it's never too early to teach them that life is hard, struggles come along, but how they deal with those struggles sets them up for who they are going to be as adults. If they come to me thinking that they'll just never be a good reader or enjoy reading, and I push them and push them until they do, I've taught them a lesson on how some hard work and diligence pays off. If I have a student that just doesn't understand how to subtract with regrouping, and is just ready to throw in the towel, I make them practice over and over and over again. Does it frustrate them? Yep. Do they get to the point where they just want to quit and never look at a subtraction problem again? Yep. Do I give up and just let them stop there? Nope. I sit with them, day in and day out, until eventually they do it correctly. Then BAM, lightbulb goes on, and the look of sheer joy and excitement crosses their face. And it's that look that makes me do what I do.
I've had kids that didn't like me, hated me in fact. They've begged their parents to move them in to a different class, or they act up and try and make my life miserable. But those are the kids that now see me in the hallway and give me the biggest hugs and thank me for the time and effort I put in to them, and for never giving up. And I'm so thankful that I have that mentality, and won't allow anyone to take it away from me.
Everything I do is because I love those kids. Love them like they're my own. I care about them, care about their future, and want what's best for them. Sometimes they make me crazy, sometimes I just want to cry with frustration.. yet, every tear, every ounce of frustration, every hour that I spend raking my brain for an answer to how I can help them is totally worth it when I look in to the eyes of a child that has finally overcome one of their biggest obstacles.
So, today and every single day, I am so thankful for my job. I truly believe my job is the best job on the planet, and I never see me wanting to do anything else but teach. I love my kiddos with all of my heart, and thankful for them each and every day. Their passion, their willpower, their strength, and their ability to put up with me. Without them, I'd be nothing. So, I also want to throw in the fact that I am extremely thankful for my students. All of them. The past, the present, and the future. They make me who I am as a teacher, and for all of these things, I am TRULY thankful.
Have a great Saturday, everyone!