While on break this week, I had a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of my school and the endless “to do” lists that seem to chase me and climb upon my shoulders each day.
I took a break from the children who need guidance, the ones who need to be challenged, and the ones who like to use my class as their personal stage for every thought that bounces around inside their heads and bursts out of their mouths.
This week I had the opportunity to spend time at my son’s school helping in the classroom. It was wonderful to be in another school with such amazing and driven teachers!
It’s so easy to spot great teachers! They are like shoelaces. The top-notch teachers are like perfectly tied shoes, laced tightly and securely, while teachers who have lost their drive are like Velcro shoes, just trying to keep it all together.
Teaching is such an incredibly amazing and utterly exhausting field. It’s the springboard of all other endeavors. Whether you are an engineer, a doctor, a scientist, entrepreneur… whatever it is that you dreamed of becoming and that you became, you were taught by a teacher.
It’s an invaluable undertaking and not one that should be taken lightly. We are constantly looked upon to take on more and more. (Not going to get political here, don’t worry.) We are asked to find ways to reach each and every child in our class…especially those who don’t want to be reached. It’s more than differentiated instruction. It’s personalized instruction. We teach people, not curriculum.
We are the ones who are expected to ignite curiosity and light the fire within our students. We ask them to dig deep and break through barriers of their own fixed mindsets. We ask them to explore issues they never knew existed. We ask them to solve for “y” and to question “why.” We ask them to compare and contrast and not only think outside the box—but redesign the box entirely! We make connections, build bridges and hope to foster a love of learning that rivals our love of teaching.
We are the truth tellers! But I can’t say it has always been that way.
As I compare my years as a student with my years as a teacher, I laugh at the “truths” that were once passed down to me from my teachers. Some examples:
Second grade: “Put this wet paper towel on your forehead…it will make your stomach ache go away.” How many things has this wet paper towel actually cured?
Fifth grade: “Yes, you must learn the metric system because in a few years the world is going to be switching over to the metric system and you don’t want to be left behind. (Did I miss it? I still measure in feet and inches!)
10th grade: “Soon, everyone will be speaking Spanish; you must study, Marianna” (my Spanish name). If everyone is going to be speaking Spanish soon, why are you teaching me to say “Sacuda las cuerdas de la vuelta,” which roughly translates to “Shake your hips and turn around or dance.” Is there going to be some monumental Spanish dance party that requires me to know all the moves? Will they also use metric?
12th grade: After telling a teacher I wanted to be a teacher: “Why would you ever want to do that? You’ll never make any money and I can’t really see you as a teacher.” The answer: Because, to be honest, I’ve never envisioned myself doing anything else. Yes, there was a brief period in which I wanted to work at Sea World, but that was only because I wanted to wear a wetsuit! Flash forward to two children later and an obvious, long-time love affair with carbs, you couldn’t pay me to put on that wetsuit. Anyway, I don’t know any teacher who signed up for this occupation because of the income…only the outcome.
I sit here and consider the actual truths I have to impart to my students. What would I want them to take away from my classes? What would I want them to know…and ultimately remember years later?
I want them to know that I see them. They are not invisible, nor are they silent. They do not blend into the background. I see who they are and who they are trying to become. I want them to know that I will continue to do everything I can to make sure they are safe and protected.
And I will give them every tool I can to make sure they are ready to go out and change the world…for the better.
By Adrianne Robinson
Adrianne Robinson has been a middle school math teacher at Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford for 18 years. She is the author of the blog “I Was Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts and Musings from One Mom to Another,” (www.iwasthinkingoutloud.com).