Listening to Rod Stuart’s Forever Young today on the radio gave me all the feels. It’s an old song, but it’s lyrics and the season of graduation, remind me of how I feel for all of the young people who have laughed, sat, cried, sang, and enjoyed the classroom experience with me at some point these last fifteen years.
There are educators in our world whose rewards come only after years, when a former student graduates and remembers the impact he/she had on his/her life. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with many amazing students with loving parents every year of my teaching life. Becoming friends with parents and adult students has been one of the many gifts of my teaching career.
Nonetheless, for all of us who have given of ourselves in the gritty and challenging work of helping children grow into successful young people, watching our students graduate is thrilling! It’s a reminder that our work is a legacy. Reality says good or bad, we leave an imprint on our students’ lives, but I’m speaking up for those of us who pour our love into each child whom we’ve encountered. There are students who have sat in our classrooms, or students we’ve mentored from other rooms, or students who remember that every time they saw us, we had a smile to share. The community built within a school has so much potential to help grow and stretch that child into the person they dream to be. As an educator who has witnessed this many times over, I tell you that it’s worth it all.
Educators will encounter disrespect from the very people they try to help the most. They will encounter admin who try to micromanage. They will sit through professional development counter-intuitive to what is learned through working daily with children. They will show up to work sick because it’s easier than making sub plans. They will show up to work during the most traumatic of life events, and they will do it every year because that is how we are wired. And while those are the hardest parts of teaching, there are so many amazing things, too: watching learning and behavior gaps shrink, building community/family within a class, loving each child through every storm they face while in our class, the thank you notes and drawings just for us, the growth, and watching new passions take off while learning—all these things far outweigh the negatives. Watching our students successfully enter adulthood is a thrill we share. Knowing we had a part, it just can’t be matched.
Teaching isn’t a work of fairy tales and is not for the faint of heart. Summer breaks are as necessary and restorative as weekends. We give so much of ourselves because we know what it takes to help raise a child up. We feel a lot of guilt for spending more time with other people’s children than our own. But I tell you, this season of watching a student spread his or her wings is such a reward. We do it all over and over again because our hearts’ purpose would choose nothing else.
And that’s our teachers’ hearts. We love watching you walk across the stage to receive your diploma. We love to see you enjoy your jobs and college experiences. We love to be invited to your weddings and baby showers. We love to be part of our students’ lives forever. Even if you gave us a hard time, we choose to remember the best (exactly how you like to remember us even when we’ve made our own mistakes).
I don’t know if there is a profession quite like our’s with such a sweet reward. So, I am truly grateful to know and remember that God has put me into position to have touched hundreds of lives since 2004.
Congrats to all of our graduates past and present! We want to see you achieve all you hope for in life! We hope to have impacted your life, but never doubt that your impact on our lives is just as real.