Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Butter Knives...

On this first day of Thanksgiving break, I planned on rising early and reading – maybe writing a bit. Instead I found myself on Twitter, scanning tweets, reading links, etc. I checked my Feedly and found many wonderful blog posts waiting for me. I read some, skimmed others, and then landed on Chris Lehman’s. (You can read it HERE.)

Tears streamed down my face as I read down the page. My heart ached. I was in the audience at the end of Chris’s session. These were my tweets at the end:

Education is such a funny profession. Most teachers I know work harder than they should, make less money than they dreamed, spend more on their classroom, sleep little, yet dream big. Teachers usually teach because they want the best for children. It is something you feel called to do – otherwise who in their right mind would ever go into this job?

I am blessed beyond measure. I teach in a district that has not told me how I must teach. I am not forced to use a curriculum I don’t believe in. I do zero days of test prep in my classroom – and my administration is fine with that. I have children who love me, parents who support me, and colleagues who make me smile. That being said, even I feel the change.

Education is under attack. Teachers are under attack. When I scan education blogs, articles, and tweets I wonder when local and state governments lost all control of education. I wonder when people who have never been in the classroom became the experts on what should go on in said classrooms. When I read the standards for kindergartners, I wonder if those same people have ever met a five year old. Questions swirl in my mind. Despair fills my heart. And then, I breathe.

While I would love to “fix” education, I know that is beyond my reach. I can change what is close to me. I can choose the attitude I enter my school and my classroom with each day. In my own small way, that is changing education.

Chris Lehman shares what his butter knife is – connecting. Mine is similar. Relationships. Love. I have said it before and I can say it again – if relationships and love don’t come first in the classroom, nothing else will work. Your students won’t grow without it.

Monday morning I entered my classroom laden down with bagels and a toaster to have breakfast with a small group of students and discuss Newbery contenders. I’ll be honest, I was questioning why I scheduled this meeting on the day after I returned from NCTE. I was a vision of exhaustion – bags under my eyes, my hair a mess, disheveled, dragging. A colleague stopped by my room to ask how it went and we were quickly interrupted but fifth graders flowing in for our breakfast. Shouts of, “You’re back!” and “We missed you so much!” came at me. I had tears in my eyes as I received hug after hug.

We discussed books, ate bagels, and breakfast quickly passed. I readied myself for a day of teaching, buoyed by the breakfast with my small group, but still felt exhaustion returning.

My class flooded into the room. More joyous shouts came at me, hugs, high fives, and then a quiet hug with a whisper, “I just love you so.” I hugged back and then walked out in the hall to compose myself. This is my butter knife. These connections. These relationships. In the face of ugliness in education, I instead think of these faces. I love them so much and can’t wait to see them again in five days. They are the reason I teach.