Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Teaching: My Own Love Affair

It's Valentine's Day, a time to give thanks for the loved ones in your life and to keep Hallmark in business. My husband surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of roses last night, and I had his favorite macaroni and cheese casserole waiting for him when he got home. Aww! Today, we will be heading to a fantastic chocolate and wine tasting event at a new hip wine bar in Virginia.

Romance and marriage aside, Valentine's Day is also a time to be grateful to have a calling and profession that I love -- and truly cherish every day. I feel most alive when teaching and often find myself "falling in love" with my students' progress and development throughout the school year. Eighth graders are certainly too old and too "cool" to show their affection for their teachers with genuine hugs anymore. We are lucky to receive even a few gifts for Christmas or the end of the year, unlike elementary teachers. No biggie. Thus, when we feel appreciated and respected by our students -- with their own little ways of showing it -- that is often the greatest gift of all.

Trust me; I would never want to repeat my own middle school years. I was an extremely quiet, self-conscious, awkward, and self-proclaimed "nerd" who still thought boys had "cooties" and hiked my shorts up a bit too high. I was just beginning to discover who I was and had a LONG way to go before feeling comfortable in my own skin. I see myself at the vulnerable age of 13 and 14 in many of my own students. There is one student in particular who stands out in my mind.

For two years, I had the pleasure of knowing a special student who completely emerged from her shell and began the lifelong process of self-expression and love. When I first met her in August 2007, she was non-verbal and refused to speak in class -- and even when alone with me. She was constantly ill and plagued by chronic injuries and absences from school. She immediately became a priority focus for me and someone whom I was determined to help grow and gain confidence bit by bit. One day, I noticed her black sketchbook next to her English notebook. "What's this?" I inquired after class. She answered by opening to a picture of a tiger she had drawn. "It's beautiful," I said. For the first time that year, she smiled.

From then on, this special student began to join me regularly for lunch, each time with a different drawing to share. She slowly started to speak and open up to me about her love of art, animals, and reading, three loves I also share. Our conversations were open, honest, and real. Slowly, she started displaying more confidence in her words and actions, both during our meetings and in all of her classes. At the end of the school year, I received a touching email from her mother, who thanked me for making such a different in her daughter's life. I still have that email today and cry every time I read it.

Since I moved up with my then-seventh graders to eighth grade last year, I had the privilege of teaching many of my students for a second year, including this special student. Our friendship and her trust in me only grew, as did her confidence, smile, and success in school. Now happy and healthy in high school, she recently came back to visit me to inform me she made the honor roll for the first time and was really enjoying her time in school. What wonderful news!

Each year, several students stand out to me, be it for their academic ability, personal potential, or all-around growth and success. This year is no exception. Today, I am reminded to once again give thanks to those students for coming into my life and teaching me as much -- if not more -- than I could ever teach them about life, love, and learning.

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