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.