Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Education is not for the weak of heart...or patience. It is a career path that has brought me some of my toughest days, exhausting days, exciting days, craziest days and so much more. More than anything, ALL of those days were rewarding and IRREPLACEABLE.
After starting my 7th year of teaching (which is crazy to think) I look back on all of the days and really start to notice all the WHY moments. This is a career where you truly must know your WHY. WHY do I wake up each morning to go greet a variety of 8 year old faces. Faces that are connected to little humans. Little humans who may or may not want to walk through the front doors of the school. Little humans that are going through so much more than I can ever fathom. Little humans who may never break down their walls and allow me to help them the way I wish I could.
WHY do I try strategy after strategy after new “the best thing to hit education, life changing” strategy when nothing seems to break the surface.
WHY do I put in hours of personal time and money to create activities that often result in me on a stage acting borderline crazy. Well let me tell you…
All my life I’ve absolutely loved children. I babysat as soon as people would hire me and loved it. I was never the “let’s just watch a movie” babysitter. I would always find a way to have fun with the kids whether it was a game or some make-believe world they wanted to explore for awhile. I always wanted our time to be fun and memorable.
When I began college, I didn’t know I was going to end up in the world of education. I initially started out as an art major. I always loved my art classes in school and was pretty good at them, but if I’m being honest I don’t know if I had an actual idea of where I was meant to be in the “real world.” I went through freshman year taking all the art classes necessary for graphic design. Then it happened...I worked at a summer camp. I spent my first college summer working two months at a Christian athletic camp in Branson, MO. I spent two months investing in kids and their futures. In those months, something inside me said I needed to go in a different direction. I just had to work with children, somehow. After changing my major I dove into my education courses and was very successful. I had great mentoring experiences in a wide variety of school settings and grades. I got blessed with the best mentor teacher for the student teaching experience. She was absolutely amazing. She taught me the importance of student relationships as well as teaching relationships. We created activities that excited the students and it was invigorating.
I landed my first teaching job fulfilling a sabbatical. It was possibly one of the biggest learning experiences of my career. Nothing says teaching is a challenge like being thrust in mid-year, with a room full of 5 year olds. I’d never imagined (planned) to work with kinder-babies. I always enjoyed the older kids and their independence and goofy personalities. Nonetheless, I was now a kindergarten teacher, for a semester.
I won’t lie, I questioned my WHY hourly, if not by the minute.
I learned a lot about classroom management and perseverance, yet after 18 weeks in the trenches I definitely had not mastered those areas. Ultimately, my WHY was as basic as to teach kids and help them be better.
I went on to get offered a full time position at my current school. It was the biggest blessing that I’m still uncovering. When I began at my current school I was again thrust into the world of... KINDERGARTEN!! At this point in my career I had to put my hands up and admit, the good Lord apparently REALLY wanted me in Kindergarten. Most positions open in my area were all Kindergarten, so I felt fairly certain I was supposed to be there, at least for a little while. Kindergarten was never my calling or my heart, but it was where I was needed and at that time that was part of my WHY; I was supposed to be there.
See, I’ve learned over the years and even as I’ve been writing this that your WHY changes over time. More importantly your WHY develops over time.
I continued through Kindergarten for the next five years. I definitely grew as a teacher. I learned a WHOLE BUNCH of patience. I learned so many new strategies for classroom management, engagement, and so much more. Those five years, truly were a development period and a growing experience. Still, I was yearning for something MORE and hadn’t quite found my true WHY.
My MORE and my WHY came in the shape of a grade change. Something I’d longed for for a long time. Even better, it was a change to the grade I’d fallen in love with during my student teaching experience. My first half year and I found so much joy in my career and found a rekindled love for what my career entailed. I was partnered up with a new teacher who had so much energy and I really felt like I had to step up my game! I didn’t want to be the fuddy dud teacher after all. It ended up being a perfect match. We fed off of each others energies and always sought to find the fun in the day. In the spring, we (me and 13 of my colleagues) had the amazing opportunity to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. This was a life-changing experience. Here I truly found my WHY. As I sat in one of the professor’s classrooms he posed us a question:
“What makes your classroom special? If you don’t know the answer you may want to be re-thinking your teaching pedagogy.”
This struck me in a BIG way. This one question developed my WHY.
WHY teach? WHY NOT! Why not be the voice for those who feel voiceless? Why not be a problem solver for those who can’t solve the problems they face daily alone? Why not bridge the gaps to help them all be successful in their unique ways? The beauty of this profession is everyday is different. Every student is different. Every student needs something different to fuel their soul and drive. Some students simply need a hug at the beginning of the day to kick start a rough morning. Some students simply need a challenge. Some students need a dance every now and then to get the wiggles out and help them focus. Some students need silly songs to help them remember difficult content. Some students need one on one time regularly to keep them on track and constantly growing. Some students just need the friends that sit next to them in class. Some students need a cheerleader to remind them all the amazing things they are capable of.
Some students need a meal, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a voice and actions to show how much you love them.
No matter where the student may be or what they are going through, I know I can be their constant. That is my why.
My why is the smile on their face when their day turns around. My why is the look on a students face when they conquer a skill they once thought was challenging. My why is joyfully dancing with those students as you see them calm to tackle the next task. My why is listening to the excited voices singing as they start to understand content. My why is seeing the pride in a student as they finally master a skill. My why is seeing a student finally believe they are capable of great things. My why is loving students until they truly love themselves.
I know as I continue my journey in education my why will develop and morph, but I know at the core it will always remain about the students. They are the reason I wake up each morning for work and they are the reason I work my tail off each night.
Let’s be honest if they aren’t at the core of our why… the bigger question is WHY NOT?