Insert my sarcasm to student’s off the wall comment. Insert heavy sigh and roll of eyes as I impatienently wait for the student who still cannot find his pencil…we started seven minutes ago!
Giggles erupt on one side of the classroom, my jaws clenched and my blood pressure rises. A student incesently repeats my name. I turned, certainly red faced (perhaps with my head spinning), and in my deepest voice…”BE quiet.” The room falls silent. Before I know it it’s time for them to head to their next class. They quietly pack up and head out.
Exasperated, I let out a loud frustrated sigh and let my head fall into my hands and then onto my desk. It had been more than just one of “those days.” In my classroom it had been one of those weeks. Additional gray hairs had crowned my head and the wrinkles in my furrowed brow grew deeper. It’s not that my students had terribly bad behavior, were unruly or rude…they are just middle schoolers. It’s literally that those neural circuits are exploding in their brains with rapid growth. They are excited. They are sad. They are loud, then withdrawn. They blurt the answers and ask off the wall questions. They go blank mid-sentence – it suddently left them, but in that same instance they remember something else to share.
No the students haven’t changed.
It was me on this day, morphing into that teacher.
Pulling from my bookshelf I blew dust off a small book, my reminder. A book my husband finally found for me some years ago – I had wanted it since college when a professor had read it aloud to those of us aspiring to change the world through teaching. Out of print and somewhat hard to find now The Geranium in the widowsill just died, but teacher you went right on by Albert Cullum. He poiniently describes the teacher no one wants to be but each of us probably had at some point as a child.
In fact, the dedication reads “Dedicated to all of those grownups who, as children, died in the arms of compulsory education.”
No! This is not me. Deep breaths and extended grace are needed from myself to the me in the classroom. One bad day does not define me. Just as it shouldn’t with my students.
This book, my reminder, brings into full light that teacher I do not want to become.
The one who looks over the simple, scorns the giggles, allows the cobwebs to grow in the corners of her classroom – letting all things grow old and boring. The teacher who shames a student, who changes her voice when talking to adults, and forgets every child can sense whether they are liked or not.
“The robins sang and sang and sang,
but teacher you went right on.
The last bell sounded the end of the day,
but teacher you went right on.
The geranium on the window sill just died,
but teacher you went right on.”
No. I am not that teacher. Yes, I can see your rainbow made of different colors. Yes, I will learn from you, my student, how to again use my imagination. Yes, I see you. I see when your look is blank that something or someone has hurt you. I see your smile and appreciate your laugh. Yes, I welcome your hundredth question in one class period – you are engaged. Yes, I will choose you to be my helper. Yes, your imperfect work will make my bulletin board. Yes, I see your gifts. Yes, there is room for you in my classroom – you fit into my puzzle.
Deep breaths, let’s extend each other grace, let’s ask it of our students too.
Yes, let’s take note and acknowledge when the geranium on the window sill dies.
“Teacher, come on outside!
I’ll race you to the seesaw!
No, you won’t fall off!
Don’t be afraid, teacher.
Grab my hand follow me.
You can learn all over again!…”