Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers
My middle school students like to ask me questions. A LOT of questions. From “What’s for lunch today?” to “What’s your favorite book?” to my favorite question so far – “Mrs. Mosher, what’s your favorite decade?” (Obviously that one was really hard to answer. It also caused me a lot of worrying… Just how old do my students think I am? ) One of my favorite questions that I get, usually from 6th graders who don’t know me very well, is “Have you always wanted to be a teacher?” or “Why did you want to become a teacher?” My answer for some reason always surprises them.
Yes, I’ve pretty much ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher. The story of why begins when I was in second grade, which was in fact, a long time ago. So long ago, that sometimes I think that I actually may have unintentionally made it up over the years. Maybe it’s my very own urban legend. While that part of the story is debatable, what’s not is that I really, really liked going to school when I was a kid. I loved reading, music and writing loooong stories. I thought longer meant better, so I would fill up those sheets with the blue and pink lines like it was my job. I loved my second grade teacher, Mrs. Wolf, who was not so scary despite her somewhat scary-to-a- second-grader name. One day, when a few kids had returned to school after being absent, I was given the task of catching them up on reading. I have no recollection of what we read, but I do remember what happened afterwards. Once everyone was caught up and off to do whatever the rest of the class was doing, Mrs. Wolf called me over and said, “Great job, Lesley. You know, someday you would make a great teacher.” And it was settled. I loved school and now a teacher that I adored thought I would MAKE a good teacher? I was in. So for the next decade or so I planned to become a teacher, only once wavering after a mock trial in 11th grade history class, when I thought being a lawyer would be fun. Thank goodness I got over that pretty quickly. I am one of those rare people who never changed their major and always, always knew that the classroom is where I feel most comfortable and where I am supposed to be.
Fast forward to now. I’m in my 13th year of teaching, and this school year has been both the craziest and best start to a school year that I’ve ever had. I blogged about it here a few days ago and I’m so thankful that my students have embraced our class routines and rituals quickly this year, because personally, I’ve had a rough start and have missed A LOT of school.
I’ve been dealing with an unexpected health issue this fall (I’m doing better now and will be ok) that has caused me a lot of time out of my classroom and a lot of time at home in bed. This is pretty much unheard of for me. During my first four, maybe five years of teaching I never took a sick or personal day. Writing sub plans are a chore and I just don’t like missing school. I have, however, had a lot of time to reflect and think about my teaching while I’ve been away. It’s been quite a blessing in disguise.
First, I’ve been reassured that the classroom is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Every once in awhile I wonder if there is something else out there that I’m really supposed to be doing, and for right now anyway, the answer is no. I am at home in my classroom, sharing my love of reading with my students and helping them find the one book that will change their reading lives forever. While it is not the most glamorous of professions, I honestly couldn’t ask for a better job.
Secondly, I’ve had time to reflect on what makes a great teacher and I keep coming back to – WORDS. It was just one line of positive feedback from my second grade teacher that helped make me who I am today. As teachers, our words have so much impact. Our students take to heart what we say, which can be a very,very scary thing. I am constantly talking to students about the future. “When you get to college” or “When you are an adult” are frequent conversation starters. I want all of my students to have the same passion about their future professions as I have about mine. I need to be their Mrs. Wolf. I need to be their biggest fan, their cheerleader because I can’t assume they already have one. We all know that teaching is not for the faint at heart, but it’s also, in my opinion, the most rewarding profession out there. An opportunity to make a difference every day. I think it’s pretty cool that I can write that under my job description.