It’s the middle of my Thursday afternoon and I’m cheerily engaging my students in using text evidence but an angry parent email during lunch has disturbed my teaching bliss.
The parent is concerned that I’m failing to connect with her daughter. She thinks it’s likely because her daughter is bored, and that I don’t provide enough instructions for assignments, and probably that I’m not really nice but just pretending to be nice.
After all the effort to provide motivating lessons, to be present with my students, and sincerely enjoying this particular child, being a teacher has become a chore. If all that I do adds up to this, what’s the point?
The email has continued to worry me all afternoon. Another challenge arises with a normally well-behaved student at the end of the day who refuses to participate in a lesson with a primary document. Most of my kids love this lesson, but this student wrote MORON down the side because she didn’t agree with the author.
I reflect on my obstacles that evening and again the next morning. I have no resolution. As I enter my classroom, my stomach is still in knots even after a morning of meditation.
I have a note in my school mailbox alerting me to bus duty next week, and an email waiting on me from the parent of the well-behaved student. The student doesn’t feel like her voice is heard. She told her dad I got in her face and yelled at her. I never yell at my students. And we were sitting across from each other at the teacher table. How could all of my good intentions have become distorted?
A week later and I’m still here being teacher. Over the years, I’ve taught college, been an instructional coach, and developed educational programs for a non-profit. But being a classroom teacher is still where I want to be. So why do I choose to stay? And why should you stay?
My students arrive this morning with bleary eyes with tiny smiles. I greet them with my usual morning smile as we go through procedures, taking attendance and listening to student stories. One of my students tells me all about how his pet bird loves his cereal. I tell them about how my cat has just died.
By the time we begin our day, my stomach no longer hurts and a smile comes easily. I am no longer worried or concerned. I realize then that these children are my therapy.
No matter the challenges I face through the day, the smiles of my students will bring me back to my center, back to who I am. I am a kind-hearted teacher and a caring soul. Nothing changes that. No irate parent, disgruntled child, or challenging bus duty impacts my love for children or my compassion.
One of my sweet girls dug out a piece of candy from her backpack and left it in on my desk. “I hope feel you better about your cat,” it says. Next to it, she drew a heart.
The connection I have with my children has steered me back to the right path, where my authentic self can respond with kindness and compassion to the angry parent addressing her concerns. She returned the kindness in the following email. I also apologized to the student who felt I yelled at her. While I know I didn’t yell, the relationship I have with her as my student is what’s important.
That’s why I will never walk away. And that’s why you shouldn’t either. I know I can always be who I am, and that acting from that place can solve any problem, unknot any stomach, steer you in the way I should go. So stay being teacher, for if that is who you are, nothing will change your heart.