At 4:45am my iPhone lights up, with the appropriately named “blues” ringtone going off in the background. At that time of the morning, I am desperate for anything but getting out of my bed. Even if I think about going back to sleep, I can’t. I can’t go back to sleep because I am a teacher, and waking moments are filled with “What will I do next?” lists that inevitably propel me forward.
Soon I am ready for my ride to work; currently, I’m listening to the audio book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I have found it a necessity that I practice what I preach, and so I’m reading, okay sometimes listening, books whenever I find a chance. The only break from this is when I stop at my local Starbucks, for my daily cup of love, Grande Pike with soy. When I pull into the parking lot, I’m the first one there, I let the last few lines of dialogue spill from the author, as I put my coat back on, and look around the car to see how many bags I’ll have to carry in today. Seven. Not too bad. I can carry them all in one trip.
I walk down the quiet hallways reminding myself of what’s important about today. Today I will teach them how to talk, about analyzing good argument writing. I’ll remind them that good writers are good readers and good talkers. And I’ll give them lines to say to each other such as: “So what I think you’re saying is . . .”, “The evidence we have for that is . . .?”, and “Isn’t the real issue here . . .?”. As I unlock the door, I promise myself to make a wall chart with them, I want them to see this language written down, to have it as a safety net, if they forget what to say.
As I unpack my bags, I’m visualizing this chart in my head, wishing that someone had taught me in middle school to speak eloquently in an argument. I think about the Common Core, and the standards I know I’ll be hitting today—8.W.9 & 8.R.9 (for Christmas break this year, I tried to memorize these standards, I know them well, but sometimes I have to keep telling myself them in order to make sure I’m doing it right). I wonder what colors I should use and how big I should make it, and still have the chart be useful. I run through my words in my head. I want to say it right the first time; this lesson is important to us.
Soon I am sipping my coffee, reading through my e-mails, answering a few, and checking to make sure I know what page a few of my favorite kids should be on in their independent reading books. When the bell goes off for the kids to enter the building, I am almost always surprised. I could have used more time. The kids are always quiet as they enter the building at 7:25am; it’s like they know the teachers are just waking up too. And then, like that, the day begins. Students tell me of their athletic victories the night before, compliment me on my curly hair, and ask me wide eyed once again, “What are we going to do today, Miss Smith?”
Take over the world.
This job is not easy. This morning routine is not easy. But believe me, it is worth every second of it. When I see my students two years later and they tell me, “Whenever I get upset, I write—remember how you taught us that?” Or when the student in front of me says, “I stayed up so late, because I couldn’t stop reading my book!” Or better yet, when in the middle of the standards, and the grading, and the keeping on top of it, you get to watch a kid stepping into who they will become. It is worth it.
There are plenty of things wrong with the teaching field. Plenty of things to complain about. But, if you’re teaching and you’re stuck there, in the complaint field— that’s too hard, too much, too little— I’m begging you step back and embrace why you’re here or get out. These kids need the focused, hard working you, who recognizes the beauty in the craft, who recognizes that people are worth it.
Our kids are worth it.