Eight years ago, I ran in a Superhero themed 5K with my daughters. I bought a Superman t-shirt at Walmart and my oldest daughter’s friend used puffy paint to make a design on the back that said, ‘I teach. What’s your super power?’ I loved this shirt and wore it proudly alongside caped crusaders navigating the course. It was a great conversation piece for the runners who passed me on the course!
I wear it to work every now and then, on School Color Day or Super Hero Day or any time I have an excuse to do so. I wear it because teaching is indeed my super power. This year marks my 25th year in education, dating back to my start in 1991 with a Transitional Primary class of 16 boys! I have taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades as a classroom teacher, and reading support to 1st-5th graders. I currently teach Gifted and Talented to 3rd and 4th graders and serve as the Response to Intervention Coordinator, as well as the Literacy Coach. My experiences have spanned four schools and two districts. I took seven years off in the middle to be home with my daughters and came back to a totally different landscape in 2009 that was very driven by standardized testing.
What I know is that teaching is hard. It is emotionally draining. It is sometimes thankless. We are expected to be professional, but are not always treated as professionals. I will never make $100,000 in my career, despite holding a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and other certifications. I have spent countless Friday nights working on my class newsletter to parents, countless weekend hours on lesson plans and countless late nights revising those lesson plans based on how the day went. I am expected to do more with less time and nothing ever comes off my plate. Many people say that it must be nice to have summers off (I work at our educational summer camp) or end the day at 4:00 (I tutor for another 1-2 hours most nights). Many people believe that since they went to school as kids, they know how to teach. COVID 19 hit us hard. With one day’s notice, we pivoted to online instruction, using a platform we had never seen before. I was beamed into students’ homes, trying to bring curriculum to life from a distance. When we returned, it was a hybrid model with students in for a week and out for a week. We witnessed behaviors we had never experienced due to the lack of socialization for a year and a half. Many of my colleagues left the profession. Many continue to.
But here’s what I also know about the career that has been my passion since I was a first grader writing about how I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I have a treasured file of beautiful letters from parents thanking me for understanding their child, showing him kindness, making learning interesting and engaging her. I have photos and drawings and notes from my students, telling me everything from ‘You are the best teacher ever’ to ‘You are pretty’ to ‘I like coming to school because of you.’ Again, treasures. Over the years, I have been a nurse, counselor, therapist, pediatrician, artist, writer, cheerleader, touchstone, friend, mom, grandma, coach. I have experienced new babies in families and parents dying. I have seen students live in squalor and beautifully appointed homes. I have seen ADHD, dyslexia, behavior disorders, autism, anxiety and depression in my students. I have been thrown up on, had bloody teeth handed to me, had kids barricade themselves under my desk, and have jammed 22 of us into a closet during lockdown drills, while staying calm and keeping everyone silent. I have gotten dozens of mugs and ornaments and Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards. I have attended t-ball games, dance competitions, ice skating practices, birthday parties, and karate tests. I have written hundreds of notes of encouragement and acknowledgement. I have assured and reassured nervous, weepy parents at conferences. I have read professional books on a range of topics from management to minilessons and listened to podcasts on pedagogy. I have read young adult books and Magic Tree House books so I can have conversations with kids on their level. I have watched the latest Disney movies and tried my hardest to understand the nuances of video games. I get Christmas cards from former students with pictures of their babies and elementary aged kids. All of this to say, I have been paid richly for my time in ways that can’t be taken to the bank.
My super power is teaching. I am well aware that I make a difference in kids’ and families’ lives every day, and I want that influence to be a positive one. I don’t ever forget that, even when I’m exhausted, disillusioned, stressed by the demands, dubious about all the assessing, and questioning if we’re asking too much of our little ones. I have been entrusted with our world’s most precious inhabitants and look to give them the skills, self understanding, acceptance and love they need to carry them through life. Teaching is a super power!
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