This year has been the toughest I have experienced in my whole teaching career. The stress of my job became so overwhelming I ended up taking a 3 month leave of absence. It was probably one of the best things I ever did because it helped to provide a lot of clarity and perspective for me. Truth be told, I had all but decided to give up teaching. . . And then I went back to work.
I was reminded of all the reasons I got into teaching in the first place. First and foremost. . . the kids. I love working with my junior high kids. They’re full of energy and life. . . and mischief. 🙂 For the last part of the year, I was able to maintain the boundaries I had put in place with demands on my time and I was once again enjoying being a teacher. But I was still looking for a change in profession that would allow me to function like a human again.
Today was my school’s official last day of classes before exams and so we’ve been winding things up, saying our goodbyes, and finishing it all off with an awards day. I love to honour my kids with awards that highlight all the different things that make them unique. Of course we have the usual academic awards, but more importantly I like to focus on what I call the Awesome Student Awards. This is a time where I like to highlight the uniqueness of each student that makes our class as wonderful as it is.
To me, it’s important that students understand that there is much more to a well-rounded person than good test scores. If there is only one thing I accomplish each year, I hope that it is to work past the years of school days past where students have learned to tell themselves that they can’t do it and teach them that they are capable of remarkable things.
I’ve often felt like I fail at this. So, I decided that I would go to the source and find out what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, and what I could improve for future years. At the end of Awards Day each year I give the students an Exit Survey to complete for me. They are asked to rate me from 1-5 on a number of different elements based on their experience for the year, they’re also asked to explain in a couple sentences what they wished they could tell their teacher about their year, and then finally they are asked to choose the 3 things that they think a good teacher should do. This is all done anonymously so that they feel free to give honest feedback.
Because of the tough year I had experienced, I thought that I had done a terrible job. I had been wishing that I could do more and I was beating myself up for falling short of my own goals. I think as teachers, sometimes we can be so much harder on ourselves than others. 🙂 As it turns out, my kids did not see things the same way I did. They were incredibly affirming of me as a teacher and the impact I had had on their school year.
I had a lot of fun. I’ll hopefully be coming back next year. I want to say you are a great teacher and very patient even with some of us who can sometimes be good a procrastinating. – Student 1
She was unlike any other teacher I ever had in a good way. She has seen that I can always improve. She never has anything bad to say. there is not one bad thing i can say about ms.R it has been a real learning experience. – Student 2
That she’s a pretty rad teacher. She mad me laugh ever since the first day I got here. Before I started at this school I wasn’t really into all this online school nonsense, now I will be doing it again in the future. I never met a teacher like Ms. R. She’s special and I know God isn’t done with her yet. Like the saying says, “Wisdom is merely patience with a lot of practice,” Messages.com. She’s spectacular, authentic, spot on, one of a kind person. – Student 3
Your an awesome teacher. Your also very kind, compassionate, and caring and very understanding of what someone is going through. Had a great school year and lots of fun and laughter!!! 😀 – Student 4
You know what this told me? In order to be an effective teacher and have a positive influence on the students that I’m trying to reach, I don’t have to have perfect lesson plans, I don’t have to have it all together, all the time, and I don’t have to work myself to death to make a difference. It’s the small things that make the biggest difference to students. They enjoyed a fun, relaxed atmosphere and learned stuff along the way. They felt understood, valued, and appreciated. As adults, isn’t that what we like to have too? Students are no different.
The following letter is one that I received this morning from one of my Grade 8 students:
This one got me all choked up. 🙂 It wasn’t because her words were so kind, even though they really were, but it was because she was thankful for things that I did for her that I didn’t realize were impactful. This is why I do what I do. This is why I teach. I have the incredible opportunity and responsibility to have an impact on how a young person views the world.
I am no longer looking to change occupations. . . My passion is definitely in teaching. If all I ever do each year is impart on my students how wonderfully unique they are and how that uniqueness is what makes them so special, then I’ll count it a successful year.
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