Why I Teach
As the first semester comes to an end, as I reflect on everything so far over winter break, I still remember why I teach. In no way has my job been easy. Students have walked out of my class in front of me, slammed my door, cursed me out, slammed my finger in the door, threw pencils at me, pushed my buttons....enough to make others quit, I'm still standing strong. I think of all the good moments I've had. I think of all the reasons why I'm still here. I think of my relationships with my students. The student who comes into my room three times a day just to say hi and for a hug. The student from last year who always comes to my room and lets my freshmen know that I'm one of the teachers who really cares. The student who leaves a note on my desk saying "I love you." The student who brings me a Christmas gift and note saying I'm one of their favorite teachers. My students love me and I love them back. They're like my children.
I'm still here for the students who I know need me. For the student who's had a rough few weeks and just needs someone to sit on the floor out in the hallways with to just hear them talk and give them a comforting word of advice. For the student who would be labelled as a "bad student" but breaks down, cries, and tells me something very personal, even though we're not that close. For the student who needs an advocate because they're not getting that from home. For the student who needs that tough love and told their potential is way higher than what they are doing. For the student who looks up to me as a positive role model. For the student who appreciates you because you're finally giving them that mental challenge they've always been looking for.
Teaching my students is not an easy task. My students were performing below grade level, due to lack of a qualified teacher. And I try my best to teach them the basics they didn't learn, what they need for my class, and what they will need for the next class. With various skill levels, it's challenging to find the middle ground. Yes some days are really bad....really, really, really, bad. And some days are really good. Like really, really, really good. And of course there are days that are everywhere in-between. I work really hard to be the teacher they need. When I say that, I don't mean just the person that feeds my students knowledge that I've scaffolded into a way they will best understand. Being a teacher means so much more than just pouring everything I know into their brains. I recently read a letter one my students wrote me when I finished my student teaching. She told me how she really looked up to me and how I was a role model to her. That meant a lot to me, especially coming from a young Black girl. And I remembered all my interactions with her so vividly. She talked way too much in class, played on her phone constantly, always came late, and barely paid attention. I was hard on her. I pushed her. I told her a lot that she could be doing way better. She failed many of tests due to her lack of effort. However, we had a great relationship. She knew I saw potential in her. She would tell me about her life and ask me questions to get to know me. Her letter to me meant the world to me. It touched me heart.
Teaching in an urban school can be rough. But I wouldn't change it for a thing. They've really had me reflect about my teaching. Working with my high achieving students, student with IEP's, English Language Learner (ELL) students, and everything in between has taught me how to teach to everyone. Finding that sweet spot where everyone learns something took some time. It's helped me with my pacing. How long do i need to stay on one topic and how in depth can I go? It's helped me with my presentation of the material. Depending on the topic and how long I've been covering it, should I give more notes, more individual practice, group practice? How will I know if my students are getting it? What type of formative assessment am I going to use? How do I modify and/or accommodate to my students with an IEP or my ELL students? All of these things go through my mind everyday as I plan a lesson. I feel more like a real teacher the more I wake up and go to work. Everyday I feel like I'm making improvements on my craft.
This is my passion and I wouldn't change this for anything. I know as a Black woman with a math degree, I could go into a career where I could make more money. But I'm here for my students. No matter how bad the days are, I wouldn't change it for anything. I could go on for days about the influence I've had on my students and how it's influenced me. I found my passion and I found my calling. This is why I teach.