This week for my grad class I had to write a portrait of myself as a teacher. Something about this process was so hard. When the first question in the reflection asked me to describe how I handle my emotions, all I could think about was the class of second graders I had yelled at that afternoon. Like really yelled. It was ugly.
In my assignment I was also supposed to reflect on my use of rich tasks, classroom discourse, and evidence of student learning….and on and on and on. But my ability to think objectively about all of those areas was totally clouded by my most recent mistakes. It’s been a hot mess kind of week, and I just kept picturing the teacher I made cry, the class I made sit and listen for waaay too long, and the balls I’ve been dropping all along the way.
I had my zoom lens on, and it wasn’t pretty. Thankfully though, I got an email yesterday that helped me to begin to zoom out. Then at lunch today I read an article that made my view a little wider. Tonight, at the Chipotle checkout of all places, God reminded me a third time of the value of a wide angle lens: The portrait of me as a teacher spans 11 years, not one week. Here are three snapshots that I must include:
*A mom of a student I taught four years ago emailed me for advice for her youngest daughter. She told me her son was doing well in Algebra, and she appreciated the way I had reassured her of his understanding and ability way back in fourth grade. She wrote, “So, as a teacher, what I so appreciate about you, among other things, is your ability to see the child and his mind, not just the results of his work.” Her kind words have been incredibly encouraging to me.
*Today at lunch I read an article about local high school athletes who have signed with colleges. One of my former fourth grade students received a full scholarship to play football. I can only imagine the kind of determination and commitment it has taken for him to land this spot. This has given me such renewed hope for my current students.
*Tonight at Chipotle the girl ringing me up stops and says, “You look so familiar.” I knew right away by her age that I must have taught her, but no names were coming to me. (I don’t have that gift like my friend Ruth does.) But as soon as she told me her name, I remembered exactly who she was. And guess what that beautiful young woman said next? “I still remember what you taught me, all those rhymes! 6 times 8 equals 48. I never forgot it!” I did a little dance right there in Chipotle. No shame. And I asked her if I could hug her. Yep. Again, no shame. I told her that she had totally made my night, and continued dancing with my chicken bowl all the way to the door.
I know I run the risk of appearing like I’m tooting my own horn by recording these moments, but that’s truly not my intention. I need to write them down to remind myself next month or next week or maybe tomorrow at 3:30pm that I am making an impact. But more importantly than that, I want to remind my teacher friends that WE are making an impact. My newest teacher friends, you’ve have never had the experience of meeting one of your students all grown up. But your day will come too, and you’ll forget their names and embarrass them and be so stinkin’ thankful all in the same moment.
Carry on, friends.