There seems to be quite a number of my former students asking about being a teacher. I find I’m answering the same questions for a lot of them.
Try you must! What are my 5 best moments as a teacher?
Last week of school
No, it’s not what you think. I have to admit that the urge to run away from school laughing like a villain is high. That’s not what makes the last week the best. If you are paying enough attention, you get to see your students at their happiest, most raw, most real.
You always have some kids break out of their shell and share how your class meant so much to them.
There is always a group that has amazing plans this summer and you are the person they think want to know about it the most.
Someone is always leaving the school and they will miss you the most.
If they take the time to share with you, it’s the best time of year to listen. They really mean what they say. They have no pressure to impress you or worries about whether you will hold this against them.
When that one you wanted to succeed gets cocky
There are always a few kids that stand out. Every year I have 2-3 of those kids that are just beat down by struggle and failure. These are the kids that come around during lunch or stay after class because they worked past the bell.
I never filled these kids with encouragement or tried to motivate them. I just found out why they weren't succeeding.
Find out what is making the class hard for them.
Regardless of what they say, I show them evidence from their efforts where they have been successful. All they want is praise and recognition for their successes. I was this kid more often than I want to admit.
Don't encourage or motivate them directly.
I don’t want to foster the idea that they have to work extra hard to be successful like others. They don’t need me introducing the idea that they are special in a negative light.
At some point, most of them will see success in their actions and believe on their own.
One of my favorite moments is the day that they really get what we’re doing and get cocky towards others in class during discussions. This is a big win and the point where they have become equals with their peers.
First day back after Christmas break
This day is commonly where they connect with my and my class differently. I have forged many mentorships this day. I’ve always taken this day to just force a discussion with each class.
A friendly, personal, rambling conversation about whatever they want to discuss. There are definite boundaries and I usually am steering the conversation towards the activities the students are doing that take incredible energy or courage. I don’t let them know I’m driving the day.
This day is a personal connection investment. After 2 weeks off, they will usually jump at the chance to really connect with each other and me that day. This has been one of my best secrets, and this is the day I really become one of them.
First day of school
Apparently the intensity of my courses have a bit of a reputation. Kids walking into my class for the first time have a distinct fear in their voices and eyes. The obstinate or arrogant kids aren’t sure enough yet to play games.
I have to admit to a dark little secret here. The strength I always felt this day is a bit intoxicating. This has caused me to always do something a little shocking the first day. I like to wow them early. The more wow I hit them with the first week, the more often they come to my class prepared for anything.
A little discomfort can go a long way. For clarity, they always know I’m not going to judge, attack, or embarrass them. They will always wonder what I’m going to say, do, or have them do next.
Ok, this is a cheesy and obvious choice, but come on! Is there a better time than watching a couple hundred (in my case) students you taught, mentored, and coached over the last 4 years walk with pride.
They are wide eyed and excited. They are ready to play and attack the world. The realities of everyday work life and the looming future haven’t hit yet. All you see is pride and inspiration.
Easy call on this one. Sappy, but easy.
For those thinking about this career, remember a couple things.
It’s really easy to get lost in the hustle over performance.
If you slow down sometimes, this can be a great career.