A wise veteran teacher once told me that good teachers are part-performer, part-parent, and part-egomaniac and, while acknowledging the last one may make us slightly uncomfortable, I think maybe he was right. But it’s a strange sort of egotism, in that our satisfaction comes solely from the achievements and successes of others. Good teaching is all about relationships: as the old adage goes, “Children don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
I vividly remember the joy I felt when being a teacher first “clicked” for me – when it went from being something I did to being who I was. It was about eighteen months into my career and, until that point, teaching had been stressful, something that took hours of planning each night – sometimes I would even write out whole “scripts” for lessons verbatim – and something I worried about so much that the Ms. Holden who stood at the front of the classroom, a serious, rather dour soul, was a world away from the Jessica Holden who stood outside of it. In hindsight, it’s not surprising. Being a teacher is like being on stage with a volatile audience whose academic, social, and emotional development are your responsibility. During that period when you are still developing your “teacher’s toolbox” of classroom management, behavior management, questioning, differentiation, pacing, assessment, and reflection, it is not always an enjoyable stage to be on.
However, when those skills – of stopping an interruption with a raised eyebrow, of moving on to the next activity before students become restless, or reacting to a challenge with humor rather than frustration – become second nature, then we can make the stage our own. And what a stage it is! Teaching makes me feel alive. I love how dynamic it is, how no two days and no two classes are ever the same, how as teachers we learn just as much from the students as they learn from us…maybe even more. I love it when students get fired up and passionate, when they draw parallels to their own lives and their own worlds, when they “get” something they’ve struggled with and you see the quiet pride on their faces or when, years later, they thank you for a class or book or moment you may or may not remember, because it meant so much to them. And that’s why we teach, really. My “stage” metaphor only works as long as you never forget that the real stars of the show are the students.