After graduating college, I was lucky enough to return to my former middle school as a 7th and 8th grade teacher. The smell of the hallways, the look of the lockers, and the taste of the cafeteria food was exactly the same as it was back in 1999. I felt like I was back home. In the warm embrace of the place and teachers that I would know both academically and professionally, I eventually gained the experience and confidence that would guide me through the next nine years.
This past week, the 2015-2016 school year ended at my school. At our annual retirement breakfast, teachers swapped war stories and memories, while I wept with pride for knowing and working beside such devoted and outstanding educators. You see, next year, I will be teaching at a Catholic School in my area. And while I am excited and grateful for the new challenges ahead of me, I could not help but feel a storm of emotions as I said goodbye to the students and colleagues who taught me so very much. Just as a mother teaches her child to walk, guiding her with unwavering love and support until she is confident enough to stride forward with independence, my middle school has done the same for me. And if any of the lasting lessons that I have learned are able to help you understand the true gifts that middle school teachers have to give, well, then my introspection was worth something after all.
- Make memories with your students: Your students may not remember the homework assignments or the projects they researched, but they will remember the memories you made with them. From field day to talent show performances, your presence in their world is cemented through your actions and reactions. That time you made a funny joke that got the whole class off topic and had students rolling on the ground, they will remember. The day you taught the class to dance The Charleston, it will be cherished. Make memories with them and for them.
- Tone is everything: My own mom tried to teach me this lesson since about the day that I turned fourteen. Now, I can officially say that she’s been right all along. Be mindful of your tone and demeanor with all of your students, especially the difficult ones. You will not win if you engage a student in an argument. Stay calm, even-tempered, and poised. Your voice literally sets the tone for your students, your classroom, and your reputation.
- Be a school-mom/dad: Though the real parents and guardians of our students have the greatest impact on them, sometimes a kid needs a school-mom or dad. They need someone to ask them about their weekend, compliment their haircut, and to remind them that it isn’t ladylike to burp or gentlemanly to pass gas in public. Adopt a school-child, or twenty, and make them feel as important to you, as you truly are to them.
I know that the lessons I’ve learned far surpass the three on this list. So to the students, administration, and colleagues who have instructed, mentored, and molded me, I send a thousand thank yous. I will always be a Yankee. And to any prospective teachers out there, I hope my words will resonate with you. Public school teachers are special, important, and weird. They are smart, unique, and courageous. And if you are ever lucky enough to become one, ‘may the odds be every in your favor.’ You have the potential to leave lasting impressions.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou
~Think on These Things~