Starting to teach at 23 years of age, I can tell you that I did not have an abundance of wisdom. BUT, I did know that relationships matter in my profession of teaching. Like many college kids after earning their degrees, I was super scared about where the next road in life would take me. I had been in school my whole life and now I was supposed to find a professional position???? The future was scary and I was eight hours, 500 miles, from my parents. But as God would have it, after a semester of substitute teaching, the school where I did my student teaching, hired me for a fourth/fifth grade math and science teacher position.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I had a total meltdown the night before school started because people were going to leave me with their kids and I was supposed to help them, grow them, get them to the next level…. Scary and exhilarating at the same time, that sums up my first year of teaching! Hmmm, I wonder if it still kinda sums it up?
Every morning I woke up and couldn’t wait to get to work! And I made peanuts, I’m pretty sure I earned more as a receptionist for the dealership I had worked for. But those kids, they were awesome. My colleagues, well, they became my best friends. My boss believed in me, and looking back now, I was in a supportive environment that I wish all new educators could have. My Mentor, Jenna Frye, was incredible and her son, Tanner, was in my fourth grade class. As I type this out, I’m smiling because her family made such a positive impact on my life.
But there were a lot of families who made an impact on my life. I never went without food or entertainment! I was always being invited to places. Heck, I took some of my kids to the movies because I loved being with them. I have some super silly memories of getting lost taking my young charges home! The point is, the relationships growing in my life mattered to me more than anything. They fed me and pushed me to be my best. I genuinely loved the students I was teaching, and I still do. I’ve watched them graduate high school, college, and even been invited to weddings! Some of them have babies the same age as mine. I am just so thrilled to see them grow into good people.
Relationships matter. I invited Tanner to read to my first graders today. One of my first year students reading to my first, first grade class…it choked me up quite a bit! I feel so blessed to see a young man, whose life I was part of as a youngster, grow up and pursue his dreams and share his story with six and seven year olds, that he doesn’t know, in another state because he knows some things are just important like that. He sang/talked to them a song I had taught him so many years ago and they sang to him “Lean On Me” before he had to go, and the whole experience was just precious for my teacher’s heart.
They are all the reasons I do this job everyday. My first graders today, and all of my students throughout the years. I have taught all the different subject matters in elementary school, but they were, and are, the reasons it matters most. Becoming friends with former students is the icing on the cake. Watching them make life choices any parent would be proud to see their child make, well I can’t describe the pride and love I feel to the justice that I feel it. But I know that not all people get to see this kind of heartwork in their professions, so I feel especially blessed to see it with mine.
If you are reading this, and you were in my class at one point, or we just said “hi” in the hallways, YOU are the reason I do my best everyday. You matter to me. I am so proud of you. I don’t just look forward to teaching my class, I get excited about being part of every child’s life that comes into contact with mine. Today was a gift. You are a present in mine.