We have a tradition at my school. On the last day, after the buses are loaded, we all meet at the end of the bus circle and wait. When they pull out, as every single bus goes by, we wave and cheer. I swear the buses are all leaning to one side as all the kids come to the windows to see their crazy teachers one more time. They wave back. The horns are blaring, the kids and teachers are cheering…and then there is silence. I must admit, as glorious as that quiet moment is, I always have a tear or two in my eyes. (Except for that one year when anyone who still could, did a cartwheel…but that was only one year out of the 15 I have been at the same school. And THAT is a whole nother story.)
The tears come because I get attached. I learn each student’s likes and dislikes. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know what makes them smile, and I know what they hate the most. They are incredible little individual humans. They have issues and problems…just like me. They have places they shine…just like me. Schools are a microcosm of the world…a place to practice life. I’m like a referee, watching over to make sure the game is going smoothly and calling fouls when needed. I truly love these children and I know that even though most of them will be back next year, the dynamics will be different. It is like starting over again.
Each classroom is its own family and has its own culture. Some years (like the cartwheel one) you get a dysfunctional family. You work through your problems, just like any other family does. Other years (most of them) you get a workable combination in which each member grows and changes. In the process of that growth comes more maturity than they started with, and a bond between the kids because they have gone through the changes together. They learn to stand together and be for one another. They learn to share their ideas and foster their creative thought. They open their eyes to see things in a new way, and they have some pretty serious ah-ha moments along the way. These things are what help keep teachers coming back despite some pretty huge challenges in the world of education.
If I had to make a pros and cons list for my job, my con list would be pretty long. And if you have any friends who are teachers, you have probably heard ad infinitum about that side of the list. Even if you are not in education you can rattle off what teachers are upset about in these times, because we are an opinionated and verbal lot. And I am NOT going to go into all that here. ( I hear those sighs of relief from my non-education friends.) I AM going to say that the pro side of our list is pretty awesome. There could be 50 items on the con side and one on the pro side and it would still tip toward the pro. In fact, there is only one big thing on the pro side. THE CHILDREN. In all caps. They are the reason we do what we do. They are the reason we put up with the 50 cons. They are magnificent. Truly. Are there behavior problems? Yes. Are there kids who are difficult to teach? For sure. Are there challenges? More that I can count. Every system, every school, every classroom has these issues but what makes it worth it is the sense of accomplishment when you can see the difference you are making in the lives of children. When the light bulb moments happen, you know you are in the right place. When a child who has a challenging home life feels special, you know you are in the right place. When a child who struggles and struggles and struggles to learn has you by his/her side cheering them on, you know you are in the right place. When kids you have taught in previous years seek you out to get a hug or a word of encouragement, you know you are in the right place. It is these things that make being held solely responsible for the success of our cultural demise bearable. (oops…slipped into a bit of the sarcastic con side there for a moment…sorry about that.)
Seriously, we love the children. It is plain and simple. When the children move from the pro side of your list to the con side…it is time to get a new job. Until that happens, I will be in the bus circle on the last day of school…crying.