Being a teacher

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The thing about being a teacher is that no matter how successful I am, I fail. The thing about being a teacher is that I have 19 students in my care at one time. That’s 19 little human beings with their own personalities and preferences and learning styles and likes and dislikes and lengths of attention spans and levels of energy and desires (or lack thereof) to learn. So I prepare my lesson plans and I follow my curriculum and I come up with great ideas for fun and instructive activities. But I’m working with humans here, and so things never go according to plan.

The thing about being a teacher is that it really doesn’t matter how great my lesson plan is if nobody hears it. Which means my “classroom management” has to be on point. Which means I have to convince 19 little humans that what they actually want to do is sit still in a little chair for two hours and listen to me talk. It means that I have to negotiate with these little humans on bathroom breaks and water breaks and shoe-tying breaks. It means that I have to interrupt my really great lesson plan to ask a little human to not touch the other little humans or to get their finger out of their nose or to stop eating their pencil or to get up off the floor (because sitting in a chair for two hours is apparently really, super hard).

The thing about being a teacher is that I get interrupted. A lot. Students throw up and students sneeze and big globs of snot come out of their nose and run down their faces and everyone squeals. Giant moths fly into the classroom and into the fan and plop down on the table and everyone squeals. Students start to shout out stories about “One time, my grandma…” and students dump their water bottles and students need their pony tails redone. They give in to the temptation to write on the board even though I remind them that they are not supposed to do that without permission. They lean back in their chairs because that’s really fun and they throw crayons because that’s really fun, too.

Which means instead of hearing my really cool lesson plan my students are hearing, “Please don’t do that,” and “Stop doing that,” and “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO NOT DO THAT?!”

The thing about being a teacher is that I can always be doing more, which is why even when I am successful, I fail. The thing about being a teacher is that today four little humans really got the hang of reading silent e words with long vowel sounds, but I think the other fourteen completely missed out because of the one who is begging for attention with all of his voice and his body. And this particular little human is really good at getting all eyes on him.

So if I look at those four then I was successful! Hooray! They can read silent e words! Four 100s go in the grade book. But if l look at the other fourteen who were distracted and tired and uninterested and eating erasers, then I kind of failed, even though my lesson plan was pretty good and it even included colored paper. And if I look at the one sitting off to the side by himself doing whatever he can to be in the spotlight, I failed. I failed him. Because I cannot give him what he needs and also teach 19 little humans about long vowels and silent e.

The thing about being a teacher is that my days are filled with thousands of choices and exactly zero time to consider the choices. In a split second I have to decide if I am going to ignore the kid crawling under the table and press on with those long vowel sounds or am I going to put everything else on hold and address this situation, risking the loss of attention of everyone else in the classroom? Am I going to review this concept one more time or move on? Should I change that kid’s color from green to yellow or give them one more chance? Do I emphasize respect or reading a thermometer today? Do I believe that this kid actually needs to go to the bathroom or are they going to go play in the sink?

The thing about being a teacher is that it’s a lot like being a human. Even when we succeed, we fail. Because nobody is perfect and nobody gets through a day without making a wrong decision and we can do one hundred things right and just one tiny thing wrong or one hundred things wrong and just one tiny thing right. Either way, as a teacher and as a human, I am encouraged by Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians. It sounds like being a teacher is a lot like being Paul because it seems to me that he had to keep repeating the same thing over and over to other humans, which is basically what teaching is. “Remember the gospel? Remember how you received it? Why would you stray from that?” is basically the same as, “Remember the two rules of the line? Looking ahead of you and silent? Why would you talk in the line?”

So Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this goal or am already perfect, BUT I PRESS ON to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

And Ms. Suzanne says, “Not that I have a 100% success rate or am a perfect teacher, BUT I PRESS ON to give my best to my students, because Jesus gave his best to me.”

BUT I PRESS ON. To succeed/fail again tomorrow. Because what else am I going to do? And because Jesus presses on with me, an arm-full of new mercies ready for me in the morning, and at the end of the school day when I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, I am still His own.

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