If My Students Only Knew

If My Students Only Knew

What if you really knew your teacher?

For most of us who live in South Dakota, the month of August means two things - the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. This week marks the start of my fourth year of teaching. When I decided to become a teacher, I always envisioned myself in a larger school, mainly because I grew up in a larger town. I figured that I would be teaching Shakespeare and theater to students who were overly thrilled to be in my room every day.

But as the old saying goes: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." After countless interviews and many disappointing phone calls, I was offered a job at a smaller school district. Don't get me wrong, smaller school districts certainly have their benefits and I have truly enjoyed my time at the school. You get to know pretty much EVERYONE in the school. In my experience, I've formed a strong bond with some of my co-workers. It's nice to have smaller classes because you really have the opportunity to get to know your students.

But there's something that you don't really learn when you're studying education - and something that you forget from your own K-12 days - not every student is going to like your subject area. They just aren't. And as a teacher, it's your job to find a way to get those students hooked. I found myself thinking about this a lot in the past few weeks. How do I set myself up for a school year that will be excited and engaging for my students? What can I do to make them eager to enter my room this school year?

There are so many things that I wish my students knew about me. I think if they knew more about me, they might understand me more. Like most teachers, I spend the first day of school introducing myself and talking a little bit about my family. But there is so much more to me that I wish my students knew.

I wish my students knew that for the month of August, I have a hard time falling asleep at night. Is everything ready for them? Will they feel comfortable in my room? Will they feel safe? Will my room reflect not only my style and flair but also connect with them? There's nothing I want more than for my students to come into my room feeling like they are safe, able to talk to me about anything, acquire a desire to learn English, and have fun while they're with me for an hour.

I wish my students knew that sometimes I have to give up time with my family and friends in order to help them. Looking at the school schedule this year, I see that fall conferences happen to fall on my daughter's first birthday. Will my daughter likely remember that I had to stay at school until 8:30 on her first birthday, putting me home at 9 and probably not seeing her much before she goes to bed? No, she probably won't. But it's a milestone that I'll miss so that I can tell their parents how well they are doing in school and what can be improved. Some nights I have to lock myself away in my room to grade homework or papers, often taking away from my social life.

I wish my students knew that even when they frustrate me, I still care about them. Some students are on a mission to test our patience - and sometimes we let them get through when they shouldn't. As a fairly new teacher - and a person who doesn't always have the most patience - I am still learning how to thicken my skin and keep my mouth shut. But even when I might have to raise my voice or send a student to the office, I hope they know that I still want them to learn and thrive in my classroom. I want them to know that I often view them as my own kids. Their safety, their growth, I care about all of it.

I wish my students knew that the little notes they leave for me on my desk or on my whiteboard absolutely make my day. In my three years of teaching, I have kept every single note that my students have given to me. I've taken pictures of the notes on the whiteboard so that I can look back at them on days when things don't go the way I'd like.

I wish my students knew that I sometimes drive home headbanging to Tenacious D. I might be mild mannered in the classroom, but Mrs. Hon has a rock side that not even some of her closest friends have seen. I love letting loose - but I promise I drive safely.

I wish my students knew that even though swearing isn't allowed in my classroom, I understand the accidental slip. If some of my students could hear me speak at home, they would certainly question the no swearing rule. I've had to start a swear jar so that my daughter's first word isn't one that will make my mother wash my mouth out with soap - because I know I'd be the one paying for that mistake!

I wish my students knew that I sometimes stay up until the dead of the night in order to make sure my lesson is top notch. I try to find new and exciting ways to teach them English - a subject that not everyone loves. But I hope they know that I want them to enjoy learning - even if it's not their favorite subject. In fact, I wish my students knew that it's OK to hate my subject, as long as they try their hardest when they're in my room.

I wish my students knew how hilarious it is when I see them in public. Yes, teachers do go to the store. Occasionally we have the chance to go see a new movie. We do like to go to the fair when it comes to town - in fact, it's often one of the last activities out before school starts. But the look on students' faces when they don't want to see you? It's absolutely priceless. It's like they are a deer caught in headlights and they're never really sure where to turn.

But most of all, I wish my students knew that no matter what, I want them to succeed. If that means I have to stay late at school to have another rehearsal, if that means I have to come into school early to explain a concept that they didn't grasp, if that means that I have to give up a little time with my family to go see a basketball game, I'm in.

This year is going to the best year of teaching so far. I hope my students know that I expect them to work hard, have fun, and achieve their full potential.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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A Letter to the Girl I Was 3 Years Ago

"Strength grows in the moments when you think you can't go on but you keep going anyway."

  To the old me, 

The girl who worried too much about what other people thought of her, the girl who didn’t know what she was worth, the girl who was scared to be alone. 

I know it’s hard, you’re just starting out high school and what people think of you is SO important. You want to be accepted, you want to be liked. You alter the person you actually are, because you want to be the person everyone loves. Stop. It’s not worth it. In a couple years it won’t matter what everyone thought of you, because majority of those people wont stick around after you walk across that stage at graduation. They don’t care about you that much. Be yourself, because that is the best version you can be. You are beautiful just the way you are, you are special just the way you are. Be confident in who you are. Once you stop caring what others think, you will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders and you will never want to go back.

And YOU, you are worth SO much, and that will be your biggest weapon one day knowing that and being confident in that. Stop letting people walk all over you and define who you are, and stop settling for less than you deserve. LOVE yourself first, CHOOSE yourself first, and everything else will fall into place. The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself, and the one with the big Man upstairs. The mistakes you have made, and will continue to make, will never define your value as a person.  Once you discover your self value, you will know what you deserve and what you don’t deserve.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:13-14

I cant stress this enough: it is OK to be independent, it is OK to be alone. Honestly, you wont figure this one out for a while. You will go through relationship after relationship depending on guys for your happiness and that will be your source of self-validation, and that will get your heart broken at times. It happens, and its OK to learn from it. It is so important that you grow out of that, though. Work on yourself while you have the time, make yourself a better you for the right person that does come along, but most importantly, make yourself a better you for YOU. Be dependent on yourself and your faith for the happiness that you crave out of other people. Stop putting yourself through the heartbreaks, and just settling because you are afraid of being alone. Embrace it, and take advantage of it. 

To the girl that is the girl I used to be-

It’s never too late to realize things need to change. It’s never too late to rid yourself of the negativity, and all of the things holding you back. You got this, I believe in you. Take it from the one girl who never thought she had it in her to become stronger. 

To the old me-

I wish that I could go back and hug you and let you know that you are so loved. You are so worth it. You are so special. You CAN do this. Everything you are going through and will go through will be so worth it, and to never EVER give up no matter how much you want to at times. I wish that I could’ve told you in a few years, you will be mentally and emotionally stronger than you have ever been, and everything that you are going through is just a phase.                                                                                  Life isn't always perfect. Life isn't always easy. Life doesn't always make sense, but thats the beauty of it.

Love,

Me, today. 

  



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Walking Through Campus In The Dark Made Me Realize Girls Should Be Helping Other Girls Feel Safer

I'm forever grateful for the girls who helped me feel safe.

If you're a girl, chances are doing certain things, like walking alone in the dark, can be kind of scary.

I needed to walk from the dorms to the Greyhound station downtown to catch a 7 a.m. bus, and if you've ever lived in the Pacific Northwest in the fall, you know some mornings it isn't light until almost 8 a.m. or later. I am not a morning person and neither were any of my friends, so I knew I would probably be going alone.

There aren't a lot of people out and about that early in the morning and, being a girl in today's world, walking alone in the dark makes me nervous.

I planned on calling a cab, but when it didn't show after 20 minutes, I knew I was going to have to walk. As I started walking, I thought about all the horror stories I've heard on the news, all the times I've been harassed and followed by strangers on the street, all the places I was walking that weren't well light or were in commercial areas with businesses that weren't open. I didn't have pepper spray, I don't know a lot of self-defense, and I felt like all I could really do was keep my head down, walk fast, and hope nothing bad happened.

I was more worried than I care to admit but I didn't really have any other options.

I was walking past Gamma Phi Beta's house, with my phone flashlight on and silently counting the blocks until reached the bus station, and at about the same time, two girls were leaving the house in workout gear, like they were headed out for a run. What caught me off guard was when they asked if I was okay and why I was walking by myself. I explained that I was headed to the Greyhound station and no one else was awake, so I was on my own.

Without any hesitation, they offered to walk with me, so I wouldn't be alone.

I can't even put into words how relieved and grateful I was. If they asked if I wanted them to walk with me, I probably would have said no because I wouldn't want to mess up their plans or be a burden, but they offered.

When we were walking, it felt like walking with friends, not like two friends begrudgingly walking a stranger as a favor. We talked about majors, binge-worthy Netflix shows, classes, and when we reached the bus station downtown, we went our separate ways.

I don't remember their names and I don't know if they'll ever know how much that meant to me, but I still think about it, over a year later, and it reminds me how important it is to look out for and support other girls.

Since I feel like I never got to thank them properly, I do it the best way I know how: by paying it forward. When I have the opportunity to do something to make another girl feel safer, whether that's walking with her, checking in with her at a party, or otherwise, I think it's important to do it.

No one understands the struggles girls face just by existing in our f*cked up world quite like other girls. It is so important for all of us to do our part to support and protect our community.

If you have the opportunity to help out someone else in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, do it. You have no idea the impact it will have.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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