Last night, Leo and I went to curriculum night at Tommy and Belle’s school. I don’t enjoy this night usually. I have a hard time listening to what the teacher is saying because the whole time I am remembering when I was in his/her shoes. I hated talking to the parents when I taught. One year while I was nervously speaking, I had a mom and dad making out in the back of the room. I’m sure that they thought they were being romantic but I had the hardest time getting through what I had to say. Another year, I had a parent raise her hand every other minute not allowing me to answer any of her questions before she asked. That same parent ended her questions session with “Little Johnny says you never allow time to go to the bathroom or for them to sharpen their pencils. Is that true?” I just stared at her for a moment and held back saying, “Well, Little Johnny told me about the time your husband got rip-roaring drunk and fell through your screen door and you screamed you were divorcing him.” Instead, I added to my curriculum night talk, “I won’t believe everything I hear about you if you don’t believe everything you hear about me.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like the parents. For the most part, I had great parents. It was standing up in front of a room full of adults. Even now, give me 100 kids and I can command the room but 20 adults and I am a bundle of nerves. I loved teaching. Loved being a teacher, loved the kids, loved lesson planning, loved that it consumed every part of my world. Everything was always about, “How can I make this concept fun?” When I studied to be a teacher, I thought of it as a job to do until I got married and had kids. When I started teaching, I was hooked. It became so much more. I had great teachers around me that became my lifelong friends. Going to work was never a struggle. I had adult relationships that kept me smiling and the kids…the kids were some of the biggest challenges but also the biggest rewards. I had one child ask me every day since announcing I was pregnant if I had my baby yet. Finally one of the other kids was tired of it (as was I) and said, “Can’t you see that she is still really fat?”
One year I had a class that were big “tattletales” and it was driving me crazy. All day long I was refereeing fights. Finally I bought a monkey poster taped it to their general height on a wall and told them that if they had a problem, they could go “tell it to the monkey.” I cannot tell you what a world of difference it made in the classroom and how amusing that time was for me. Watching kids talk to the monkey poster about why so and so won’t lend him a pencil or that so and so kept looking at him was priceless. Obviously for bigger problems, I didn’t make them talk to the monkey. After the novelty wore off and they realized that they were actually just talking to the wall, the tattling stopped.
Teaching wasn’t just a job for me. It was a huge part of who I was and who I am today. Leaving it was a huge sacrifice that on the days when my kids are driving me crazy, I wonder why I left it to begin with. It’s one of the hardest jobs to get back into but I do hope that someday I will be able to go back. I don’t know, though. I talk to friends of mine that are still teaching and they tell me it is so different. I am not the same person I was back when I was teaching and I don’t agree with a lot of what the schools are doing so maybe I wouldn’t fit anymore. Maybe that chapter of my life is over. It really was a good one and I miss it. It’s one of those jobs that you don’t realize you were any good at it until you are not doing it anymore and I miss feeling good at something. I miss making a difference in a child’s life that isn’t allowed to say, “I hate you” while I’m doing it. I miss having kids that actually do what I tell them. I miss having someone say, “You are doing a great job.”
These were the things that I was thinking about while Tommy’s teacher was talking (Leo was with Belle’s who, by the way, is awesome. He’s a young guy whose wife just had a baby and he loves his job and Belle thinks he walks on water already). I know it is early in the year but I just loved everything she stood for. It is no secret how much I hate homework and she doesn’t really believe in it. She wants them to practice spelling and read. Once in awhile she said she’ll send home math. LOVE HER! She doesn’t like reading logs and it was the 4th grade reading log that killed reading for Nico so I completely agree with her on that one. I know she gets a lot of flack for not giving more homework but having had a kid that had the “homework” teachers, it didn’t prepare him for anything. For years we heard that they were just getting them ready for middle school but middle school has a study hall so he had less homework in middle school than in elementary school. It didn’t get him better grades (most teachers didn’t even grade it) or make him smarter. It didn’t help me help him. It was just busy work that interfered with our family life and kept him from playing with friends. They have their whole life to be bogged down with homework, why does it have to start in elementary school?
I am cautiously optimistic that this year will be a good one since Leo said that Belle’s teacher feels the same way (doesn’t like reading logs either). During this honeymoon period, I am going to bask in the glow that I won’t have to write any “frustrated school” posts. I am going to enjoy this moment until next Thursday when we have Nico’s curriculum night and then see if I still have reason to be optimistic.