Nothing beats the exhilarating feeling of watching a child learn something new for the first time. The majority of the joy doesn't even come from knowing that I have taught something correctly or with attention to detail. It's watching everything click together and fall in place like the ending motion of a Rube Goldberg machine.
I have now been teaching for just over three months and have celebrated the teaching milestone of completing my first term with my students. I had not anticipated the connections that I would make with students and other teachers as I am split between two schools as is the nature of my position. However, I have found myself perfectly nestled between both of the campuses and have the opportunity to teach and work with twice the students. The importance of elementary school can sometimes be diminished by those who do not recognize the profound impact of early education foundations.
Everyone generally knows that basic math and language skills are built in elementary school. But, it is sometimes forgotten how the experience of learning those subjects and working with those in the school can shape a child for the rest of their academic careers. I, personally, found some trouble with adjusting in different schools and oscillated between loving school and feeling powerless to the material. It is remembering my experience and the teachers that changed my balance towards the loving-school side of the scale that aids my current teaching role. There are so many wonderful, and truly, life-changing parts of being an elementary school teacher. These few are the ones that I've been encountering the most recently.
1. The moment of honesty and confidenceGiphy
Some of the best moments of being a teacher is when you have a student who feels comfortable enough in your teaching and guidance that they take you into their confidence. Although for elementary school students this might not be as prevalent as it is for older students, the fact that a student feels safe enough to come up to you and talk about their personal concerns and worries is a wonderful moment.
Regardless of the external demeanor of the person, every teacher generally places great value in these moments as they are the gateway to forming a better relationship with students for the future.
2. The "Wait! It all makes sense now!" momentGiphy
The "Ah-ha!" moment is the one that teachers talk about the most and it's for a good reason. Any teacher-recruiting video or advertisement points out this most-satisfactory instance. When a student finally gets something, especially if the concept has been one that has particularly been tormenting them, that cathartic release is all the reward you need as a teacher. Students learning, in the rawest form, is a #1 reason why most people (including myself) love their jobs as educators.
3. The "Students Helping Other Students" momentGiphy
Watching students help other students is a moment filled with pride and always results in a smile, in my case. This happens both when a classmate helps another classmate with a problem in academic work, but also when I see students who generally are not part of the same friend group help each other with frustration, paying attention, and loneliness. Especially with the younger students, parts of school require a degree of taste-acquiring that their fellow classmates can help with. And, when I see this happen without even the need for me to walk over and quietly ask a student to help out, I feel so thankful for my students at that moment.
4. The moment when students become teachersGiphy
Although there tends to be a negative reputation associated with the know-it-all of the class, knowing that there is a student in the room who you can rely on and deem to be trustworthy is reassuring but, that's not the student that I am talking about or the moment.
The moment that I am talking about is when a child has absolute joy on their face because they are able to stand in front of the classroom and help teach something. Part of the fun is in leading their fellow students from a somewhat higher-up place in the room, but part of that joy comes from being able to share their own piece of the knowledge puzzle that students leave school with every day. This is the most obvious when it comes time for show-and-tell, or for our kindergarten classrooms, when we pick one student every day to help teach math.
The moment when you're proud of their choicesGiphy
This moment relates to the "The "Students Helping Other Students" Moment" in which I feel an intense pride for the choices that students make without being asked to. I regularly see friends helping friends up from the ground if they've fallen and reassured them that they didn't look so silly. I see classmates choosing to listen and follow along to the lesson, and then ask the most thoughtful of questions. I see wonderful dialogue during discussions and debates that both excites students and makes them curious.
Kids are kids at the end of the day. They live, they make mistakes (small and large), and they learn. Us teachers are situated in a particularly lucky luxury seat to watch our students grow every day and make better choices than they did the day before. Most recently, we played a game of "Doctor Doctor" in front of the whole school, Fifth-Graders v. Teachers; although the teachers won, not a single student grumbled or cried. We told them, with the greatest honesty, of how proud we were of their sportsmanship and enthusiasm.
Once again, I am incredibly proud of the students in the schools that I work in and how they are working as hard as they have been to become better scholars and citizens in the last few months. Don't forget to consider and don't discount teaching if any of these moments sound tempting to experience and you are wondering what you might want to do after graduation. It is definitely the best way for me to have started off my post-college career.