Each school year, I spend about two weeks (paid) and two months (unpaid) prepping, planning, and dreaming of the year to come. I attend workshops and professional development, all centered around how to strategically and effectively pour knowledge into the little brains in my care over the coming nine months. It becomes this massive multi-dimensional chess game of student placement, centers, guided teaching, whole-group lessons—the list goes on. What I fail to account for each year is the profound effect my students will have on me and my personal and professional growth.
Being a mother of four small children, getting ready for work is no small feat. Some days have a greater success rate than others. One morning, a sweet little girl remarked to me, “Oh Mrs. Mullen! You actually look nice today!” I replied with a startled, “Oh, thank you!” and then laughed until I cried with a co-worker. I could have scolded my young student for delivering such a barbed compliment, but instead I chose to accept it with the pureness with which it was given. There have been many moments when I could have chosen to focus on the sting from a co-worker’s or administrator’s observation and feedback of a lesson, student progress, or test scores. However, I endeavor to focus on the nectar: The opportunity to improve, learn, and become a better educator.
Small Moments, Big Impact
Playground drama loves to rear its ugly head as spring flowers bloom. The fierceness in which friendships are guarded and quality play time is traded as a high commodity never ceases to amaze me. In the midst of my internal eye rolling as yet another group of girls recount their friendship woes, I begin to think of my own girlfriends. As we have grown, time together has become sidelined as geography, relationships, and children have risen to the forefront as seemingly impassible impediments. With the absolute solidity in which my friendships once existed, I now find them unexpectedly faded. I have realized that I need to rediscover my inner playground fierceness and renew my commitment to preserving quality time for my girlfriends, because these friendships feed my soul in a unique and special way.
Lining up to leave can be fraught with sharp elbow jabs, hip checks, and frantic whispered negotiations; reflections of which can often be seen in the car drop-off line with honking, harsh looks, and ignored blinkers. As chaotic as transitions can be, amid these I have observed many acts of compassion and kindness. True character, as I have heard stated, is how one behaves when no one is watching, no sticker is awarded, and no praise is sought. These young children who make way and allow for another to step in front provide a powerful testament to how I should better treat my co-workers, family, friends, and—most poignantly perhaps—a stranger.
I find myself preaching kindness, compassion, respect, and a multitude of other characteristics to my students throughout the year. Striving to improve their emotional and social development, acknowledging that these little people will grow into adults who are more than just a collection of facts and figures that must be regurgitated on a test. It is continually surprising then, when the simple actions of those children teach me how to be a better person.
What lessons have you learned from your students? Share with us in the comments below! For more insight from fellow educators, be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog.