Being a Teacher

I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts and articles written by frustrated teachers in my news feed.  These teachers are writing about frustrations with administrators and the decisions they’re making.  They are frustrated with lawmakers and the constantly changing and growing legislation trickling down to those of us actually inhabiting these classrooms.  They are frustrated with THE TEST and how much it’s changing our profession and our students’ lives.

And I get it.  I understand where they are coming from.  In my nine years as a teacher I’ve seen some decisions made that I didn’t think were best for kids and they made me angry.  I’ve heard stories of educational leaders that sound like tyrants.  I’ve seen THE TEST grow and grow and grow.  I can only imagine how veteran teachers must feel seeing things change so much since they began 20, 30, 40 years ago.  It’s definitely a flawed system.

But as I’ve read these articles I keep coming back to this:  We’re in it for the kids.  We’re not in it for success or fame and we’re definitely not in it for the money.  And while we may not like what’s put upon us from above, the kids coming into our classrooms each day still need the same things.  They need love.  They need acceptance.  They need someone who will put in the time with them.  Someone who will help them learn to think and love to learn.  Isn’t that what being a teacher is all about?

Being a teacher is about teaching, but it’s about so much more than that.

It’s about pushing them to do more than they ever believed they could.

It’s about being that one constant thing when Grandma gets cancer or Mom and Dad split up or big sister dies.  Being constant when their world is crumbling.

Being a teacher may mean being the only smile and hug they get that day.

It’s being the one to introduce them to Jan Brett and Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss and teaching them to love books and reading.

It means being the one to say, “I’m proud of you” and seeing their face light up in a smile.

Being a teacher means watching them perform the dance they “choreographed” last night without laughing and clapping when they finish.

It’s being the one to give them a breakfast bar when they come to school crying because their tummy is rumbling so loudly.

Being a teacher is being the person who notices their fancy haircut or new tennis shoes or missing tooth.

It’s being the one to pull them aside when they just don’t seem okay and letting them talk.

It’s being the one who introduces them to The Golden Rule and using eye contact and respectful body language.

Sometimes being a teacher means being mom and dad, counselor, and motivational speaker.

It’s being the one who wipes their tears when they skin their knee or their dog dies or their cousins move away.

It means being the one who tells them they’re strong and tough and brave when they doubt themselves.

Being a teacher means being the one who watches their amazement when they look back at their writing from nine months ago and can finally see that all their hard work paid off.

It’s being the adult who teaches them to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”.

It’s being the one to proudly wear their Rainbow Loom bracelet and tape their painting up on the wall.

It’s being the person who will not accept less than their best and will hold them accountable to be who you know they can be.

Being a teacher is all about teaching.  It’s about teaching them how to add and subtract.  It’s about teaching them how to read and write.  It’s about teaching them how to think.  But it’s also about teaching them what love looks like, every single day.

And no matter what laws are passed and how big and scary THE TEST gets, love will always be the same.

Pecker Peck Peckerman

Voting is almost a daily occurrence in first grade.  We vote about what to do for inside recess; we vote about which new book is our class favorite; we vote about what prize to choose when we fill up our gumball jar.  We’ve had lots of great voting moments, but hands down, my favorite vote occurred just a couple weeks ago.

Let’s back up just a bit…

For the first time, our elementary school was given the opportunity to hatch baby chicks.  I was so excited and I signed up right away.  I e-mailed the company, my principal paid $20, and 2 weeks later our eggs and incubator arrived.

The kids were ecstatic…and so was I!  The eggs somehow seemed so different from the eggs we all had at home in our refrigerators.  We saw their promise – the hope that lay in each one.  Just as all good parents do, we held their futures in our hearts.

Each morning as the kids came into the classroom, they rushed straight to the incubator.  There were lots of false labor alerts – the kids were ready for hatch day about 3 days after the eggs were laid. It was a long journey, but finally, on Valentine’s Day, our lone little chick made his debut in our world.

He worked so hard to make his way out of the shell.  It took him all morning and after he was done, he just lay in the incubator, exhausted.  I don’t think I have ever FELT so much excitement in my classroom.  It was palpable.  The kids were thrilled beyond belief – so in love, so proud, so full of joy and life and wonder.  It was such a beautiful day.

Our little chick spent the afternoon in the incubator drying off, and after school Claire and I came up to take him out.  She was the first one to hold the little guy.  It was a magical moment that I will never forget.

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The next day my kids had a big decision on their hands.  They had to come up with a name to suit our favorite little bird.  Here’s where the voting came in.  There were lots of great name options put on the list – Lou, Chick-fil-A, and Pete were a few of my favorites.  But there was one name that stood out above all the others.  Really, it blew them all away.

Pecker Peck Peckerman.

Yes, Pecker.  And that is the name that won the vote, hands-down.  Democracy ruled in my classroom, and we named our chick Pecker.  The night before when Claire and I went up to hold him the first time, she named him Glory Glory Hallelujah – I feel that this slightly redeems him from his less holy name bestowed upon him by my students.

My little scientists kept personal logs to record his growth and development.  They did such a good job and we all learned so much.

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Every single day after school Claire made sure to come up and check on little Pecker (sadly, she quickly conformed to calling him by his class-given name).  Even on the day she stayed home sick with a high fever, she insisted on coming up to my classroom to visit the little guy.  Here she is trying to give him a hug.  He didn’t love these displays of affection.

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The sad thing about chicks is that they grow up so fast.  Even faster than children.  Within 2 weeks, Pecker was not a cute little chick anymore.  He had grown-up feathers, tried to peck at me on a regular basis, and pooped on the carpet EVERY SINGLE TIME we got him out of his cage.  I was definitely ready to say goodbye, and happily, a sweet little boy from my class got to take him home.  Claire, on the other hand, was not ready for her little friend to grow up and leave her.  Here she is saying goodbye to him.  It really was terribly sad – she was heartbroken.

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My students handled it a little better, and were glad Pecker was going to such a good home.  Hatching our tiny chick was an amazing experience and I am grateful for the learning, wonder, and delight that I got to share with my precious kids.