A Schoolteacher's Musings · Life Chronicles

Letters to a Student Teacher, Part II

Dear Student Teacher …

The first month is over, and with it, the edTPA, the insanity of Smarter Balanced testing, and your first two weeks of teaching all day every day. Spring break passed and you survived the treacherous nights of balancing lesson planning, writing pages of commentary, and your HYPE responsibilities. So many nights involved falling asleep on the couch, and let’s face it – in the month ahead, probably many more nights will be spent like that. But there comes a rhythm – a crazy dance where you fit in so many more steps than you ever thought possible in those few beats of music. And every once in awhile, you even have a break long enough to process a few things that you’ve been learning along the way.

So what have those twenty-four fourth-graders taught you in the last month? Here’s just a few things:

– This is probably the best age group to teach. Among many other reasons, you get to sit around discussing Harry Potter and the Mysterious Benedict Society books with them and they are just as excited as you are about them!

– Except the only not so great thing about this age group is … starting Human Growth & Development. That week was … interesting! The look on those poor girls’ faces … you will never forget it.

– The ones who are sometimes hardest to love need it the most. Seeing several of those children respond to the question of the day that asked, “Who is your favorite person?” with “You!” in their answers reminded you of what a great impact you have on their lives.

– Also, even the most random child who loses things constantly, never remembers where she puts anything, and is lucky to get through a whole math lesson alive – even things click in her brain sometimes! And what a lovely feeling it is when they do. [Although you just kind of had to laugh when you came over to help her with a math problem and the first thing she said to you was, “You’re petite!”]

– Field trips are a ton of fun … and a ton of exhaustion. Seeing the farm animals was fun, but after one sheep, you’ve kind of seen them all. The educational exhibits were way more fascinating (even if the kids didn’t think so!). Also, the bus ride over provided you with more information about Pokemon & My Little Pony than you ever wanted to know!

– The children didn’t teach you this, but the book you read over spring break – “The Book Whisperer” – was amazing. You can’t wait to try the reading ideas within … which means you’d better get a job in an upper-grade level class!

– When those two boys stepped out and admitted they’d been part of the problem at recess – leading the way after which all the other boys stepped out, too – you couldn’t have been prouder of the courage and strength it took them to do that. That is the kind of character being forged that will last them the rest of their lives. And you realized that sometimes, these are the greater lessons that you teach at school rather than all the information in content areas.

– Your skills at noticing off-task behavior are rapidly increasing – to the point where you didn’t even have to stop reading that one time – you just held out your hand for the candy wrapper two kids were tossing back and forth and kept going!

– Sometimes school gets stressful & you want to cry at night because you feel like the kids will never get it and they’ll fall so far behind. But then you have to allow yourself grace and realize that nothing will ever be perfect – not you, not them, not the system. And you just have to start each day, vowing to do your best, and ready to celebrate what successes do come – and just keep moving forward. They do learn in time. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment.

– God did answer your prayers for inspiration when He brought “The Focus Jar” to mind! That was such a mind-saver … and the kids love getting to put a fuzzy ball in the jar after every 5 minutes they are focused. They also love the rewards after every 20 balls accumulate – such as homemade chocolate chip cookies (who knew those would be so popular??) or playing Mashed Potatoes at the end of the day. They still haven’t seen Miss Kinne transform into a Disney princess, which they are all very curious about!

– And sometimes you just have to stop in the middle of it all – like in the middle of science experiments today – and love it. Love what they are doing, love that they are learning, love that you are there in the thick of it all, doing it with them, and love each of them individually.

Because they all truly have become so dear to you … and years later, you will look back on that class photo, and you’ll still remember the details about each little person in that picture. And you hope that they will make something great of their lives, and that perhaps one small thing they’ll always look back to fourth grade and remember, “I learned that from my fourth-grade teacher!”

It’s such a special gift and honor to be entrusted with a child’s education. It’s fearsome when you think of all the mistakes that you could make. But it’s also beauty-filled each and every day, whether they see it or not. Despite everything else – DRAs, spats that have to be resolved, late nights spent grading or lesson planning, stepping in poop at the farm fair, or the endless struggles with reading, writing, and math – you love it all. You know you were meant for it, and you can’t wait for the day when you get a classroom to call your very own home. Because whether you realized it or not, it’s been calling you there since you were a little girl. And the journey of certification is almost complete!

Just don’t forget to pause every day and thank God for where you are and how far you have come. He has graciously made this long road clear and lovely at last.

Your Future Self

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