A Schoolteacher's Musings

What It Means When I Say "I am a Teacher"

For so many years going to school, I awaited the day when the title of “teacher” could be truly mine. Not “college student” or “practicum student” or “student teacher,” but just – teacher.

And now, after one year, it still feels surreal to introduce myself to someone and calmly say, “I’m a teacher” when they ask what I do for a living. What they don’t know (and what would take too long to explain in a 3-minute conversation) are all the implications that go along with such an identity.

For when I say, “I am a teacher …”

… it means that, sorry, weekday nights are usually out of the question to get together – because if I’m not grading or lesson planning when I come home, I’m too exhausted to hold a normal conversation anyway.

… it means that when I walk around the school at the end of the day, I’m the one with a badge – so therefore, I must know what’s going on!

… it means that Pinterest and Hobby Lobby aren’t actually just pastimes, but legitimate parts of my job.

… it means that 5 out of 7 of my dreams throughout the week somehow involve my students or my classroom.

… it means that if you were to come to my house on the spur of the moment, both couches and the coffee table are covered with student papers, colored pens, teaching books, and various other parts of the trade.

… it means that yes, I do have the urge to correct everyone’s grammar and spelling, but I try to control it so as not to appear like “that teacher” … but you better believe I’m thinking it!

… it means that there are definitely days when I’m so exhausted, I just don’t want to go into the classroom again – but I do anyway, put on a smile for the kids, and discover that Jesus always provides the strength to make it through.

… it means that I might sometimes instinctively want to make a rubric for everything – even things non-school-related – until I remember that I don’t have to assess every part of life.

… it means that $40 can actually buy peace of mind in the form of a pencil sharpener that works – and works quickly and quietly.

… it means that I can usually solve a conflict between two people in the span of three minutes – unless, of course, someone was putting hands on someone else, in which case, thank goodness I can just send them to the principal’s office!

… it also means that sometimes I hear people swearing in public and I’m about to tell them that they can go to the principal’s office … when I remember I’m not at school anymore …

… it means that I’ve come to see that yes, kids are going to have a ton of spelling and convention errors in their papers – but once I get through all of those, they’re actually pretty wise in what they think.

… it means that each student who comes through the door has a story and a different background, and my job is to love them despite whatever behavior they give me.

… it means that I get at least one cupcake or donut a month thanks to someone’s birthday!

… it means I go to a lot of student events I was never interested in before because the joy on their faces when they see me there is priceless.

… it means that I really value such things as good whiteboard markers, pencils, and colored pens.

… it means that I will probably say, “Voices off, eyes on me” at least 2,700 times a year, maybe more.

… it means that I actually love kids’ books, and I’m always reading new ones to find great read-alouds. Or maybe just because I like the story.

… it means that holidays are a Big Deal. And I never fail to get blessed with lots of gifts and cards at said times of the year.

… it means that this job is about a lot more than apples and the alphabet.

It’s about tears and laughter, hugs and silent screams, late nights and early mornings, celebration of every child’s progress, excitement over the end of the year – and just as much excitement two months later at the beginning of the year – counseling, instructing, monitoring, relationship-building, coaching, waiting, inspiring, and believing.

… it means that I frequently feel like a failure, I frequently feel inadequate, and I frequently feel inferior.

But it also means that there’s no place I’d rather be, for the classroom is a home away from home, the kids and the teachers are the family outside of the family, and the lesson plans are just the start of an adventure we share every day called, “Growing up and becoming who we really are.”

Because those students of mine – they help me become who I really am each and every day.

Someone who was created to be a teacher.

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