The Heart of the Matter

I am currently in my fourth year of teaching school.

I did not expect to teach for this many years.

I did not expect “teacher” to become part of how I self-identify.

I did not expect to feel disappointment at the thought of probably not doing this for the rest of my life.

I did not expect to learn this much or love this much.

I spent my first two years teaching grade one. I loved it. I split my third year between a grade seven class and tutoring (and getting married.) I… survived. I learned so much. About myself. About teaching. About humans in general. About the difference between surviving versus thriving. This brings us to year four- this year. I am teaching grade four this year, along with doing a tiny bit of special ed.

Have I mentioned that I’ve learned a few things about teaching along the way?

I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Things I Have Learned about Teaching

  • Variety is the spice of life. Don’t do the exact same thing every day. Sing new songs. Sit in a circle sometimes for reading class. Split into groups for certain activities. Pretend that you don’t know anything about a concept that you are reviewing and let the students teach you. The bottom line is this: keep students on their toes. Make them wonder what you are going to do next. You get to be as creative as you can be. There should be nothing boring about this job. If you are bored, the students probably are too.

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  • Keep red pens everywhere. There has a been a red pen sitting by my kitchen sink for several weeks now, and I’ve used it several times. They’re in my purse. In my backpack. All over my desk. Don’t waste time searching for a red pen.
  • Make rubrics before you give assignments. Show them to your students when you are explaining the assignment. Students need to know what you expect from them.
  • Don’t be afraid to enter into your students’ mess. Teaching is a very relational job. Students have bad days. They sometimes have bad attitudes. Heartbreaking and confusing things happen in their lives. They get frustrated. They are sometimes afraid to try new things. They bring insecurities to school- just like you do. Enter into their mess. Celebrate and cry with them. Love them. Guide them to Jesus. Let them know that Jesus is by their side, and you are too.

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  • Tell your stories to your students. Use personal stories in your lessons. Let them know you– who you are, what you’ve experienced, what you are passionate about.
  • If something bothers you (like a lacking procedure, an unmotivated student, an area that you feel you aren’t teaching well, etc.) FIX IT. Do not just put up with it. Do not think that it will go away. FIX IT. Ask for advice. Make a plan. Take care of it.
  • Give students opportunities to serve others. They aren’t too young. They need to be aware that they CAN help others. Help them develop a heart and an awareness for the needs of others.

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  • Try to plan at least one time each week where you are committed to spending extra time at school to take care of odds and ends like hanging up art, preparing new art projects, making rubrics, making tests, tidying your classroom, trying to resuscitate your plants, etc. It can be in the morning or afternoon/evening.

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  • Evaluate yourself. I keep a word document of notes that I make as I go through the school year. I started doing this last year when I taught grade seven and I felt as though there were one million areas that I could do better in. I started a document called “A Month in the Life of a Seventh Grade Teacher”. I was going to write in it every day for a month. It turned out to be such a helpful way to process that I just kept doing it. This year I started a document called “A Month in the Life of a Fourth Grade Teacher”. It’s a good place to evaluate weak points and strong points.
  • Remember that success does not belong to you. You are planting seeds, and the rest is in God’s hands. Do your best, work your hardest, and trust God with the rest.

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  • Be kind, but in a constructive way. Being kind means being patient, and also helping students grow and develop into the best people they can be.
  • Last, but certainly not least- pack a good lunch. Good, here, is a word which means “tasty and substantial”. A good lunch is something to look forward to. Pretzels are not a good lunch. Sour cream and onion pringles are an okay lunch. Veggies and dip is a good lunch. Sandwiches or leftovers are the best lunches.

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There you have it! Now you are all prepared to be a teacher! Yay! I’m so glad!

Just kidding. You don’t have to be a teacher. But if you feel like there might be a teacher heart somewhere inside of you, don’t be afraid of it. Teaching isn’t easy, but it is so worth it.

(You can even be a teacher if you are married. Gasp. I might blog about that sometime too.)

 

 

P.S. You don’t have to be a teacher to teach. We are all teachers and learners together.