Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.
I went to school at one of the finest universities in the South. I had teachers there that taught me how to be a teacher. They taught me to use manipulatives in math instruction and how important technology is in education. They taught me about whole language and phonics and classroom management. I learned about lesson planning and backwards planning and formative assessments and summative assessments and I can throw around the words “curriculum, standards and benchmarks”with the best of ‘em. I left that fine university prepared to be the best teacher on the face of the planet.
But there were some things that those professors of mine left out.
Always carry a garbage bag on field trips. Pack an extra lunch just in case someone’s mom forgets. Keep peppermints on your desk for coughs and sweet tarts in your drawer for tummy aches. Squat when you talk to little kids. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Prepare to cry. Prepare to cry in front of your class. It happens. If you think you look fat in that polka dot skirt, don’t wear it. Kids will tell you that you do. Check your zipper, your teeth, and your nose before you leave the bathroom. On second thought, learn to hold it. You’re not going to have time to go to the bathroom.
Be good to janitors, cafeteria ladies and the secretary. They can make things happen. Stand up straight. Be neat. Carry yourself well. Be someone your students can look up to. Hold tightly to your heart. Kids have a way of taking it from you. Show your students respect. Remember that the angrier you get, the softer your voice should sound. Go to baseball games and soccer games every once in a while. You’re a role model. Act like it.
Write thank you notes. Call parents more often than you think you should. Tell the little girl with the dirty hair that she’s beautiful. Let the little boy that isn’t wearing this year’s shoes be the leader. Tell him what a good example he is. Play classical music sometimes. Read out loud. They’re never too old to hear your voice. You should have a Ziploc bag, a Sharpie, and an index card with you at all times. Kids lose teeth to the tooth fairy in the second grade, to the class bully in the eighth, and to football in high school.
Go to recess sometimes. Watch how children interact. Listen to how they talk. Jump rope if you get the chance. Visit the teacher that’s been at your school for thirty years. Ask her why she does it. Ask her why she stays. Listen to her stories. She may be old school, but she knows more than you. Always have a backup plan. Don’t be afraid to say no sometimes. That summer vacation you think you’re getting? Yeah, right. There’s professional development. You’re changing grades. You’re changing subjects. You’re changing classrooms. That break you’re getting? It’s more of a quick little breath.
If you think it might go wrong, it will. Don’t complain. Make it work. Avoid the teacher’s lounge. There isn’t a copier in a school in the continental US or the world, for that matter, that operates like it should. Borrow ideas from anyone and everyone. Share. Get to know the teacher next door. Leave cookies or a Diet Coke on her desk. Love every single child that walks through your door. Love them like they’re yours because for 180 days, they are. They’re yours to shape and to mold. They’re yours to inspire, to guide, to love, to change. And you’re their hero. Earn the title.