I’m still glad I decided to become a teacher. Two-and-a-half years into the profession, and I find more and more things that make this line of work worthwhile.
I love seeing students think about things in ways they’ve never thought of them before. I love interacting with them when they are in this mood and seeing their growth in front of my own eyes. I like seeing and experiencing their individual personalities. I like it when students find their own science-y things they get excited about and bring them to class. I like it when I assign a project and someone really goes out of their way to create something fantastic without any goading.
But this time of year is also hard. Teaching is a giving profession, and at this point in the school year we’ve given a lot of ourselves. We give a lot of our personal, “free” time to craft lessons we hope will be interesting to students while also trying to give them the tools they need to be world citizens. We offer tutoring and practice A.P. tests during our lunch breaks and after school or on the weekends. Some teachers are also coaches, practicing with students and getting them to various games and meets.
But we give more than time. We give a lot of our energy in trying to take care of the learning and emotional needs of 150 (+?) students in a given year. Sometimes we give up some of our dignity as students call us foul names, lie about us to try to get us in trouble, or steal our vehicles (this happened to a colleague of mine two days ago). We give our hope to those students who choose to do nothing all year or choose to smoke pot in the bathrooms at 7:00 a.m., even though we try every trick in the book to pull these students into the learning community. We give patience to students who earned a C, but oh! Is there anything I could possibly do this last day of the quarter to pull my grade up?
Most of this giving is done out of the goodness of our hearts. I really do want to help my students, and I don’t mind donating the time and the energy.
But over time, giving, giving, giving can be draining. Let’s face it, in a profession where we give so much, it’s pretty nice to get tangible thank yous back.
And this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, so this is a week more filled with thank yous than most. In the interest of sharing the love, I’ve been asking my students to write at least one thank-you note to their favorite teacher(s) at my school.
A few. A very small minority didn’t want to write a card at all.
Aside from these party poopers, most students were happy to write these pieces of gratitude. When I offered one blank note card to them, some wanted one for every teacher.
My heart refills a little.
Some used their card to write me a note. (Scattered throughout this post are messages my students wrote to me.)
My heart refills a little more.
I take pictures of the gifts and notes I receive from students to put in my “Rewards of Teaching” electronic file. When I’m feeling drained I cruise through this file.
While looking at notes and gifts students have given me over the past 2.5 years, I feel grateful. For those students who didn’t want to write a card, I try to remember that not everyone expresses their gratitude all of the time. I remind myself while some students might not feel grateful now, that in the future they might change their tune. I also keep in mind that some teachers get no notes at all…
For those students who didn’t want to write a card, I try to remember that not everyone expresses their gratitude all of the time. I remind myself while some students might not feel grateful now, that in the future they might change their tune. I also keep in mind that some teachers get no notes at all and may never or rarely get any tangible evidence of the true difference a teacher makes (i.e. not just test scores)…
When it comes down to it, I give all I do for the students. Every day. I try to keep refilling my own heart and energy reserves, and I’m even pretty good at that nowadays. I’m also getting better at setting down boundaries for my time and energy so I don’t burn myself out.
But there are days you can still feel like you are running on fumes. This late in the school year, teachers and students are there…
If there is a teacher in your life, please pause and thank them for their service. If you have a student in school, tell them the importance of thanking the teachers and other mentors in their lives and encourage them to write their teachers a note every now and again throughout the school year. I know I wish that I had let my teachers know along the way much more often.