Another school year has come and gone, and it’s officially summer time. Usually at the end of a school year I reflect on the year as a whole. Did the students learn enough? Are they ready for the next grade? What stuff do I need to buy for next year? The list could go on and on…however this particular school year I’ve honestly reflected the most on myself and what led me to this profession in the first place.
Let’s recap the big points of this year.
- I had a student diagnosed with leukemia and pass away within a month.
- In the United States alone, there were at least 64 incidents of gunfire on school grounds.
Okay lets unpack these issues are at a time. First-lets start with the shootings. I’m not going to share my political views one way or another, but school shootings are devastating and one of the most heartbreaking incidents that can happen. Children are our future. One day, we’ll be gone and then who will be left? The children. The children who have grown up and taken their roles in society. They go on to become a small business owner, a congressman, a mom, a chef, a craftsman…just like we all did. We followed our dreams and created our paths, and here we are! All they need is the opportunity to grow and flourish-then we can rest assure that long after we’re gone, they’ll be here to keep our families, our community, and our country still going.
With all of that said, it continues to baffle me that shootings continue to occur across the nation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “What would I do?” “Where could I hide all of my kids?” “How fast could I get my kids out of my window?” It can be scary, but right now it’s the reality of what’s going on.
Then there’s the matter of my precious student, Eliza Cait. One day she was in my class; having inside recess, writing in her journal, taking her math test…she was there. Then in the blink of an eye she was diagnosed and in the hospital, and in another blink she was gone.
To put it simple, I’ve had one heck of a school year. That brings me to the question that I think burns on every teacher’s heart at some point in their career. Our pay isn’t the best in the world. Our hours go well beyond 7:30-2:30. We say things like “Stop that!” and “Please raise your hand” almost constantly.
So… why teach?
The morning that I found out that Eliza Cait had passed away, I went on a walk with my friend. On this walk I cried…pretty much nonstop. But through my tears, I relayed a number of internal concerns to her. Why am I a teacher? Why did God lead me to this path? I’m not strong enough for this. I’m not strong enough for those students. How can I go back to that classroom and teach again?
She assured me that when I’m there and when I’m with them, I’ll find the strength and I’ll be strong because I have to be.
It turns out she was right, and I think I was strong, but ultimately I went back and we made it through the rest of the year together.
Now the year is gone, and here we are again. So-why continue to teach? Well, I often think about a visit I had with Eliza Cait in the hospital. It was the day after she was diagnosed and admitted, and I sat beside her as she watched some show on TV. On the show there was some talking goat and she pointed at the screen and said, “Look, Miss Thomas! Personification!” And I smiled at her and thought, I taught her that.
Then I think about all the times students’ call me mama throughout the school year. Whenever they do it, all the students’ giggle, but really it’s not that crazy because I am basically their school mama. I clean up boo-boos, I bring them treats, and I make sure they’re okay.
Then there’s those times when a student draws a picture and they hand it to you and their eyes light up as they tell you that they made this for you.
Then lets not forget those super magical moments when you’re talking to a student one-on-one about long division. You know they’ve struggled ENDLESSLY with the concept, and then suddenly they look up at you and declare that they understand.
I could honestly sit here and give you a hundred reasons why I love teaching, but the simple fact is I just do. Call me crazy if you want, but it’s what I was born to do. I want to teach them how to love writing or how the Civil War started. I want to know them and shape who they’ll be and what they’ll do. I would put my own life before theirs any day of the week…but I’ve learned that’s not always an option. Children are our future, and I get to be a part of that. And, really, that’s why I teach.