When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.
I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.
When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.
I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.
Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.
I am about to chaperone an 8th grade Close-Up trip. It will be hard work: a red eye flight and then lots of walking, talking, learning, and teaching for 6 entire days (and nights). BUT, I will not have to:
A couple weeks ago, I taught my 5th graders how to diagram sentences. We started out very simple. They liked it, because it was kind of like geometry in English class. Basically, students were to separate the subject from the verb and create dangling shelves for modifiers. After practicing ten sentences, we started our literature study and left diagramming off to the side.
On their vocabulary test today, I decided to be generous and offer extra credit for diagramming a very simple sentence related to our literary study, The Sign of the Beaver.Here are two responses: