As my former students stood on the stage, singing and dancing their way through a great production. My heart burst with pride and astonishment. There was no way I could predict that they would go on and be in a musical in high school. Sure I know and preach to them that they have crazy amounts of potential to do anything they want. I believe it, but I probably didn’t think that they would end up on a stage.
Every year, I go attend the plays and sporting events at the high school to remind myself that the 7th and 8th grade years are not the final image of who they are as people. We are their growth years, elementary school were their growth years. Even high school are their growth years.
The year that I had these students in class was just a drop in the bucket of life. Sure I like to think very highly of myself, but in truth, they might go on to forget about me, just as I have done with my own teachers.
However, I might be THAT teacher for them that speaks a truth that sticks, that teaches a life changing lesson. My own soapbox rants about good character and how to treat people, might seemed always seem to go in one ear and out the other, but maybe a bit of it planted a seed in their life.
I write these words to be encouraging because I know that there are days that you wonder, “Did they learn anything?” There are days when you repeated yourself 10 thousand times for them to stop talking or stop tapping their pencil. There are days when it seems like you might be speaking a foreign language, but just talking about mathematical proportions. (In fairness, I was that student that considered math to be its own language.) There are days when they refuse, are defiant, and make poor choices.
It seems on those days that you have made a poor life choice to spend your time toiling away in this classroom, where it seems progress and success might be slow. Being a teacher can be the hardest, most difficult, terrible suffering that you put yourself through, but is probably the most rewarding and joyful thing you could do with your years.
It could be the moment when a student comes to class and smiles back at you after not smiling all week.
Or the greeting you receive when you return to school after an absence.
Or the silent looks one student gives you when they are clearly annoyed with the less mature students in class.
Or when suddenly your students seem to be understanding 1 step equations, when you taught it 3 weeks ago.
Or it could be when you see the student who was defiant and unstable the year before take on a leadership role and step up into someone to depend on and lead the school play.
If you don’t believe in magic, set foot into a classroom, watch students grow, watch learning to take place. In schools, every day, across this nation, teachers are performing magic, teaching, guiding, challenging, and pushing students, towards something more than they are today.
That magic doesn’t take place every moment of every day with every student. There could be days, years of drought when nothing seems to work, but then one day the heavens open up and choirs of angels are singing, because Billy finally understands the idea of metaphor. However, what we don’t see in that moment is all the other teachers that put drops in Billy’s bucket before that day.
For some students we are just drops in the bucket, others we are the match that light the flame, and others are their to add the fuel.
Never fear teacher friends, continue to add to the buckets, your labor is not in vain, and these students are not finished yet.