Hello, and welcome to another edition of jessie leaving in this space something I wrote somewhere else.
Today was a decidedly less exciting and fun-filled day of professional development, and I left school this afternoon feeling discouraged. It happens. It isn't the end of the world, but I wasn't expecting it, and so it's been a pretty chill evening. I don't know if I've shared this with you all yet, but I decided this summer [read: in July] that I was going to re-watch The Office in it's entirety on Netflix. I stand by that choice, and it was a solid one when I was all bummed out home from work. I just started season 6 of 9. It's fine. I'm determined to finish before the chillren start. We'll see.
Anyway, I watched The Office, and then decided to stop putting off this thing I've been putting off for a while. I'm not really into talking about it yet, because I haven't really formed what the reality of that situation is, but trust: it is nothing Earth-shattering or life-changing. It's just a thing. Anyway, The Thing led me to re-open my Teacher of the Year application (12 pages of my thoughts and things about myself as a teacher, and teaching as a whole). And that helped. Reading some of the things I wrote in March helped remind me today what the main goal is.
So, I thought I'd share one of those things with you. One of the things I needed to write about was my "Professional Biography" and I'm going to put that right here. I hope you enjoy!
When I reflect on the factors that influenced me to become a teacher, I can’t help but laugh at myself. Sometimes, friends will ask me when I knew I wanted to become a teacher, and the answer used to feel like a cliché, but ultimately, it boils down to three things: my grandfather’s influence, my affinity for bossiness, and Jesus. The only person in my family who was an educator was my grandfather, and I have fond memories of visiting his classroom in the summers and “helping,” which typically involved making a mess of things, and pressing down too hard on dry erase markers. Those memories aren’t so vivid, but I remember clearly the day I found out that he’d passed away. I was called into the hallway by my beloved Language Arts teacher where we met my parents and I received the bad news. These events may seem unrelated, but I connected the compassion my teacher showed me during that time with teachers as a whole, and that resonated with me into and throughout those years in college when you’re deciding who you’re supposed to become. I didn’t have a clear picture of who that person was, but my Language Arts teacher came to mind, forever connected with the loving, attentive educator I knew my grandfather to be, and I knew I wanted the opportunity to play that role in someone else’s life. Now, the second factor may seem brash, but I include it as a factor toward my career choice in order to say that in being gifted with the skill of leadership, and a desire to get other people on board with whatever I’m pursuing, I realized that my assertiveness (which requires development and maturity, so as not to be, well, bossy) would serve me well in education. I credit Jesus with being an influencing factor in my pursuing a career in education because without that relationship in my life, all of the otherwise disjointed parts of my personality don’t seem to fit together, much less into a career path. My desire to help people, to make a difference in someone’s life, to be influenced by the goodness in fourteen-year-olds, to learn from and love people who are different from me, and both experience and foster growth to the best of my ability is a direct result of the person I am because of my relationship with Christ. I consider my greatest contributions to education to be the relationships I’ve built with my students in the short time that I’ve been teaching. I am grateful that early on in my first year teaching, I had a sort of crisis of faith with the job I thought I was doing versus the job I was actually doing. I realized that in my efforts to have total control in my classroom, I was overlooking that my students were actually humans with personalities, interests and insecurities, and all the things that you forget about when the realities of the vastness of what needs to be mastered by students hits you. This was resulting in what any educator can guess: no one was comfortable, and very few people were actually learning and growing from the experience in my class. I would love to say that upon this realization I discovered the solution immediately, but that isn’t the case. Building relationships with students, as with anyone, is a continual process; so, when I began to feel more comfortable with actually acting like myself in front of a room of middle school students, I found that my students did as well. This allowed for an amazing revelation on my part: when we’re all acting like ourselves, we can build relationships with each other based on reality instead of expectations. Rather than both parties being stressed by not being able to learn and teach in an environment where we feel safe enough to be ourselves, building strong relationships with my students by modeling for them that you can be yourself (even, and especially, in middle school) and learn at the same time has been what I consider my greatest contribution as an educator. All of my accomplishments are, I believe, tied directly to this philosophy: that relationships with students make all the difference. The average reading level of my eighth grade students is around fourth grade. This seems a roadblock too great to overcome, and yet, every year an incredible number of my students see success on their state test, and I see an amazing amount of growth in all of my students. I have seen, evidenced by these same students, a confidence in their ability to achieve whatever successes they are working toward that is the outgrowth of trusting me and themselves enough to take risks, ask questions, and do it as many times as it takes to really get it. This type of intrinsic growth is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify, but is a result of the relationship we have built together. Seeing my students see success is one of the things that I love most about my job. Knowing that they have someone in their corner who truly believes they can and will accomplish more than the statistics say that they should, and then doing it is a greater accomplishment for me than any extrinsic reward I might earn as a result of their success. Sending students to high school who are resilient, analytical, wiser, and more capable than anyone else may have anticipated is my greatest accomplishment in education.