To Be that Which I Am

Few professions offer the potential rewards that teaching does. I’ve been at it for three years now. The first two years were spent working with 5th graders. This year it’s all about the 7th grade. Now to offer some perspective for those in the trenches with me and for those who aspire to teach’em up as my good friend always says. Here are three reasons why I became a middle school reading teacher.

It’s Better to Give than to Receive

Perhaps there is no better time to write about giving than now…just after the Christmas season. Everyone would agree that it’s that moment he or she reaches out and lends a helping hand to someone else they feel the best about themselves. This is certainly the case with teaching.

Over Christmas break one of my students gave me a Christmas present. That, in itself, was pretty amazing seeing that 7th graders often feel it to be “uncool” to interact with the teacher in such a way. But, it wasn’t the present itself that left an impression on me. It was the short little note came along with it. There was not a lot to it – just a simple expression of gratitude for all that I had taught her over the past couple of months. And, in that moment I was reminded of the fact that I am not in this for all the little presents and thank you’s I may or may not get from my students. Rather, I’m in this to give something of lasting value to others.

Tomorrow I will get to school early and leave late – Not for all the thank you’s I’ll get, but for all the thank you’s that students are not yet able to express. Because, it is precisely for them that I give whatever I’ve got.

Our Students Need Leaders

From time to time I get caught up in thinking my students don’t like me or worse yet – they’re not listening to me! Of course, to stay in this frame of mind is counterproductive at best. And, then it occurred to me – regardless of whether or not my students like me or listen to me, then need me to lead them.

This hit home to me just the other day. A particular student I have had ongoing behavioral issues with had a particularly bad day. After class I pulled him aside and gave him a “talking to.” Now, ordinarily I do not take this approach with students. And, for the reasons I mentioned above. After “talking to” a student like this, he or she typically does not like me. But, once again it hit me. It’s for the situation we were in and for what that student needed at that moment that I became a teacher. In that moment, he needed someone to call him on his “stuff.” Had I looked the other way or cowered in fear that he wouldn’t like me, I would have been shirking my responsibility as a leader for that student.

To lead is to be more than willing to enter into the uncomfortable situations in life and pointing others in the right direction despite how it may look or how others might perceive me. As I awaken tomorrow morning, it’s imperative that I prepare to lead students…because it’s what they need.

It Benefits Me!

It’s not lost on me how the title of this last part actually goes against almost everything I’ve written so far. But it’s true! To give of yourself and take the yoke of leadership makes me what I am. And, for better or worse, I benefit from being a middle school teacher.

I mean, think about it…people search long and hard for ways to improve their lives. Self-help books fly off the shelves, counseling offices thrive with the purpose of assuaging the guilt of those no longer satisfied by their selfish lives and volunteer organizations teem with people trying to do something that makes them feel better. I happen to be in a profession that allows me the benefit of helping others all day long and by doing so I make me feel better. In fact, I sometimes joke with other teachers that I do not get paid for what I do. “I’m strictly a volunteer!” It’s funny, yes, and even though I do get paid for what I do, there is an aspect to it that says my efforts help others in much the same way someone who volunteers helps others.

As I get up for “work” tomorrow, I serve to benefit from that which I’m willing to give. Sometimes I’m able to give more than others, but regardless of how much I actually do give of myself, my role as a middle school teacher is a benefit to me.

And, Now to Be that Which I Am

In closing, I step away from my computer to be that which I am. I am a middle school teacher that must be busy about giving what I’ve got, leading those who need to be led and benefiting from my profession in a way that most spend a lifetime trying to find – that benefit that helps me feel better about myself on a daily basis. Time to be that which I am and teach’em up! Today and everyday.

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