I went to school today and worked on my classroom. I had to vacate my room at the end of last year so a work crew could replace one wall and the flooring. (Our classroom flooded last year and there was some mold in the carpet and insulation). My furniture and teaching materials have been sitting in the hall all summer. Today was the first time I’ve seen the new floor and it is beautiful! I have gray and blue tile now, with area rugs instead of carpeting. I think it will be so much nicer for the children and so much easier to keep clean. We do a lot of painting and science experiments in my classroom!
There were several other teachers in the building, all in various stages of preparation for the new year. We always gripe a little about the end of summer- have to wear long pants and real shoes again- but I can tell by the conversations that most teachers are ready for school to start. Teaching is what most of us do best. It’s what we’re qualified to do. It’s what we love!
I haven’t been teaching in public school very long. When I was a young girl I always wanted to teach. I went to college for a couple of years, but life and circumstances got in the way and I dropped out. I finally went back to college and earned my bachelor’s degree thirty years after graduating from high school. Then I continued and got my master’s degree in education. It was the best thing I ever did for myself! I don’t regret the numerous other jobs I’ve had over the years (ok, maybe I regret the three months I worked as a waitress), but I feel like teaching is what I was born to do. Even at the end of the worst, pull-my-hair-out-and-cry days, I still love my job and I go to work the next day with a smile on my face.
I love to hear the words “back to school”. I love the smell of new crayons and the feel of crisp white paper. School has always been a comfortable, reassuring place for me. My family moved a lot when I was a child. We worked in the fields of California and Texas and Oklahoma and back again. My father sometimes worked on construction jobs that lasted for only a few months. I’m not sure how many schools I attended, but my mother and I once counted seventeen. I was always the “new kid”. Sometimes I wasn’t sure how to act around the other children. Sometimes my accent wasn’t right, or my clothes weren’t like theirs, or my skin was different. But school was my haven. I could function in school. I knew how to read and write and follow directions and raise my hand when I wanted to talk. It didn’t matter if I was in Madera, CA or Georgetown, TX. I knew how schools operated. The principal made the rules. The teacher taught the class. The cafeteria served lunch. The playground was for recess. I could handle that with my eyes closed!
I think school is still a haven for children. So many of them come from dysfunctional families. They’ve been hurt emotionally and sometimes physically. They’ve moved from one place to another, or even one family to another. Everything in the outside world is frantic and crazy and uncertain. School is routine. School is safe and secure. School is logical. Even children who struggle with the challenges of learning to read and write and do math, know the process. They know about listening and working and practicing. School is their domain. And most of them find a teacher or friend or mentor to praise them for their strengths and help them through their difficulties.
I love “back to school” because each year and each class and each student is different and challenging. Teaching, especially in kindergarten, isn’t just about standing in front of a class and talking. It’s about preparing children for the future. It’s about giving them the tools they need for the next grade and the next, and for the rest of their lives. I attend workshops and classes. I do research. I talk to other teachers. I challenge myself to find new ways to reach children and meet their needs. I try to make them curious and excited and happy about learning! I can’t personally thank all of the teachers who contributed to my life, but maybe I can pay back a small portion of that debt of gratitude by being a good teacher myself.
P.S. This is a photo of me in the first grade.