To say last week was challenging would be a severe understatement. It takes a lot to make me feel defeated, and at one point, I felt like I was letting the challenge at hand defeat me. The big picture is that I took a big step into something that was so new and would be doing a job I was not sure if I was ready to handle.
This side gig of subbing has been going so well, and I have loved being at a middle school almost every day. One day, I got a phone call from a teacher at a different building in the district requesting me for a long-term until the end of the year. As that question came through on my speaker, I wondered if there was a glitch in my car system and I misheard the question. Somehow, my mouth responded ‘yes’ before my brain had time to process the conversation.
Since that phone call, I had a few weeks to think, prepare, and panic just a little. Subbing a day here or there had little consequences because the chances of having a major screw up were slim compared to finishing out the school year. My degree was not in teaching, so I feared I would miss the nuances of a teacher. I mean, I have been a third grader before, and I have seen teachers in action (obviously), so in that aspect, sure, I have had training. But, the idea of walking into a classroom of twenty-some nine-year-olds was intimidating and scared me to death.
The day came, and all of a sudden, someone’s classroom became my own (at least until June). We had a rocky first day together. Nothing can adequately prepare a person to jump into this head first in the middle of the year after routines and behaviors are already set in place. At one point in the day, I felt like a hostage negotiator, and I was the hostage. Day one was a wake-up call. I do not know if it had to do with being an only child, having an introvert side, or owning up to my Type A personality that could not handle the chaotic day, but I needed a brain break (as our class now affectionately calls it).
I had time to think about how the day went and how tomorrow could be better (because that is all I could ask for). Thankfully, the staff at this school was so welcoming and a haven for me when I needed support (and to answer my million questions). I kept having to push out a little negative voice in my head that said, “you cannot do this,” but my heart said, “you can do this.”
A new day brought new attitudes and goals. And I could see a difference in myself and the kids. This was huge. We almost did a one-eighty. There were still things that could be better, but we were working through our uphill battle and almost to the top. I kept telling myself and the kids that we needed to adapt. I was transparent with this group that this was a new role for me.
We got to a point in the day that I still saw some frustration from both sides. I totally could see where they were coming from too. Nothing about this transition was easy, but no one said it was going to be. I said something that hit me hard, and I think the kids began to see this new adventure in a new light. I do not know why I said it, but it made so much sense. My words went something like this: “I am here to teach you, but we all have something to learn from each other. I am learning just like you. Learning does not stop at the end of the math lessons or the social studies discussions. I am learning just as much or more from each of you, and that is an awesome thing when the teacher can learn from the students. So, show me we are in this together.” At the end of my sermonette, I had a classroom of wide eyes looking at me. I saw a shift in behavior, and excitement that was not there before began to seep into my heart.
I had a pep in my step going in on Friday that was not there before. The kids came in and seemed to take to heart what we talked about the day before. Their little wheels were turning, and it was evident that they were trying their best to make an effort to have a better day than our first couple of days together. When they earned an extended recess at lunchtime for the first time all year, you would have thought they had won a hundred dollars each. When they showed me how fire drills worked at their school and were absolutely silent without being told, you would have thought they were old pros and ready to jump into action when there was trouble. When it came time for Fun Friday festivities, and they took every minute seriously for fear of losing their chances, you would have thought they had been waiting all year to hear the best-kept secret.
They surprised me Friday. I saw transformations take place all day and new kids appeared before my eyes. I was proud. Not of myself because this was not my doing. I was proud of them for choosing what kind of day we were going to have. My role in this was providing the framework to spark this change; they did the rest. I could talk until I am blue in the face, and if they really did not want to listen and change, there would be no way to force this shift. Their actions meant more to me than anything else, and it taught me that when the ball is in their court, kids are more likely to take an active role in leaving their positive mark on their peers, classroom, and world.
They are learning the basics from me, but I could never replicate the lessons these little hearts and minds are teaching me.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018