Today is the first day of public school for me, Dear Reader. For sixteen years in this home, there has been a first day of public school for one of my children. And now, now it is just down to me. That doesn’t make me sad. It makes me a bit nostalgic, but it doesn’t make me sad. My kids have done what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to grow up and they did. By God’s grace they lived to grow up. I would never wish that my children didn’t grow up. That would mean that something went terribly wrong. Growing up is a good thing even if the whole process didn’t go as I’d planned as a mother.
Today there will be a group of young people who will enter my room, but more importantly, they will enter my heart. Teaching is so much more than a job to me. And honestly, it’s about so much more than reading, math, and social studies, although that’s technically what the state has hired me to do: teach subjects.
But that’s not how I look at it.
I don’t teach subjects. I teach young people.
I’m a h-u-g-e advocate for young people. I honestly pity those of you who don’t get to spend your days with 10 and 11 year olds because that’s where it’s at. They rock! And I’m super super tired of hearing about how bad kids are these days. In full disclosure, true. There are some students who are difficult and can make some moments in education ridiculously complicated with their negative behaviors.
Yet I always ask. . .what have kids seen modeled? What has been allowed in their lives? Show me what young people have seen modeled and had allowed and I will show you who they are so maybe, just maybe, before we are tempted to complain about “kids these days,” maybe we should take a reflective step back and look at ourselves. I offer that there are things we adults need to change before our kids can change.
Parenting is so hard, isn’t it?
And speaking of modeling, please don’t think for one moment, I don’t realize the monstrous modeling that my teaching position demands from me. Young people are watching me every moment and there’s no pulling the wool over the eyes of 10 and 11 year olds. They are watching me like a hawk. And they are literally choosing who they want to be and who they do not want to be.
Sometimes I am floored by what is asked of public school teachers. Students are watching. . .
- Students are watching what I do when I make a mistake.
- Students are watching what I do when I succeed.
- Students are watching what I say when someone does something right.
- Students are watching what I say when someone does something wrong.
- Students are watching to see if I will praise them.
- Students are watching to see if I will mock them.
- Students are watching to see if I follow the rules and regulations set forth by my school.
- Students are watching to see if I follow the rules and regulations set forth by my government.
- Students are watching to see if I truly want to be at school.
- Students are watching to see if my actions back my words.
- Students are watching to see if I will go back on my word.
- Students are watching to see if I will value them.
- Students are watching to see if I will hold them accountable.
- Students are watching to see if the rules apply to everyone.
- Students are watching to see if lessons will be relevant.
- Students are watching to see if lessons will be fun.
- And honestly, I think the thing they are watching the most, is how does a lady love life and not be bitter after someone paralyzed her daughter? And then, then, they are watching to make a transfer. . .if Mrs. Jagger can work through her anger and bitterness and love life and people again, how can I work through some of the crappy things that have happened to me in my life and choose joy over the anger that this world so readily offers and accepts?
Again, the state pays me to teach subjects, but there’s a heck of a lot more riding on this school year than reading, math, and social studies. As a teacher, I know one day students will barely remember what we did in 5th grade but they will always remember how they felt in 5th grade. And Dear Reader, how they feel in 5th grade depends oh-so-much on me and my attitude.
Today is the first day of school. For sixteen years, I was simply the parent, trying to help just two children navigate through this crazy ole world. Now, I have far more children depending on me. I will spend more time with them this year than most of them will spend with their parents. I don’t take that lightly.
I am told in my home state of Indiana, the teacher shortage is up to 1,000 teachers. Believe me, I understand why many of my colleagues have left public schools. So in a world where teachers are often vilified, accused of teaching a theory they’d never heard of until recently, or raked over the coals on social media, let’s all take a step back and take a deep breath.
On this first day of school, I represent the majority of teachers. We love kids. We love learning. We love our communities. And we want to partner with students and parents, as we try to do the best job we possibly can.
Today is the first day of school, and with all its challenges and difficulties, I am pumped, ready, humbled, and grateful! What a blessing! Bring. It. On!
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.