Thursday, November 9, 2017

Open Your Teacher Heart

For the past seven years, I have had the honor of being an educator.

Yes, it is an honor. It is a privilege, and it is a true blessing.

Teaching is fun. It is rewarding. And, it is also hard, humbling, draining, exciting, and every other emotion in-between.

My students have broken my heart. They have stomped on it, beat it up, played the drums on the poor thing, and left me so raw and open that I felt like I didn't know what to feel next. And, in that very next moment, my students-the very ones who just tore me open to my core-have filled my heart and soul back up more full than it ever has been before. They have taught me some of my most important lessons in life, and they have made me a better person. 

You see, teaching is funny like that. For many of us, teaching is our life. It consumes almost every fiber of our being. And, that can be challenging because many of us have families at home that need those pieces of us, too. I have long said that balance is impossible when you are a teacher.  Some days(most days), my school kiddos get the best of me that I have to offer which leaves the husband and my family getting the scraps. But, I am fortunate that I have family who understands and is there to keep me in check and reel me in when needed. They understand my "why" and they support my path in this amazing profession. For that, I am forever grateful.

Over the past seven years in the classroom, I have learned a lot. I have made mistakes, I have grown, and I acknowledge that I still have so much more learning and growing to do by the time I turn out the lights and close the door on the teaching profession.

However, there is one lesson that I hope always remains on the forefront of my teacher heart--LOVE them first and LOVE them hard.

Every year, my number one goal is to build relationships with the students that I am privileged to teach. There is an occupational hazard when you make this your number one focus, and that occupational hazard is the broken and rebuilt heart that I mentioned above. Our students go through so much trauma, turmoil, and transition within their K-12 educations. I don't care what type of demographics or socio-ecomomic status your schools have; the students all need the same thing.... LOVE. Sure, the way in which you love kiddos will be different depending on what they need, but every single one of our students need something from us. They need to know we care about them. They need to know that WE believe in them, that we SEE them, that we believe that they MATTER, and that we are there for them no-- matter --what.

I had an amazing conversation with a colleague of mine this week after I shared this article on Facebook. She had just attended a conference where the focus was relationships, bullying prevention, etc. and we spent some time talking about different ways that staff members in our building could continue to strengthen our relationships with our students and "check in" with ourselves to make sure that we, as teachers, were really taking the time to know EVERY single one of our kiddos. She shared an idea that challenged me, and I wanted to share it with you here.

Take your class list, and write down a non-academic fact about each student in your class. Can you do it? Were there some that were harder to write down than others? Were some of your facts way more detailed that others? If so, spend time learning more about the students that you don't know well enough. Make the time to learn something new about them. It is never too late to start this activity. Do it now! It is eye-opening! 

Sure, it takes time. Sure, its not always easy, but it--is--WORTH--it. Our students are worth it. They deserve to have educators who KNOW them.

So, the purpose of this blog post tonight is simple. If you are stressed about assessments, worried about scheduling, over writing lessons plans, getting exhausted with grading papers, just pulled a 15 PLUS hour day because you had morning bus duty then after school parent teacher conferences;just remember that while all of that is important, what is truly important is that EVERY single one of our students know that we care. They know that we love them, and they know that we SEE their hearts, their struggles, and we are going to be there for them no matter what.

Open up your hearts to them. Give them the control. Let your students change your life. All they ask in return is that you care.

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