Positive school experiences are so important for students - and for teachers, too. Even as I tell you that I love my students, and love teaching, I can also spout off what I don't love about the current state of education in the U.S., or what makes it so very difficult to teach sometimes.
Today at Western Mass. Writing Project's Summer Institute, we held our weekly readings discussion - this week the readings focused on current issues in teaching and education. Our discussion began with the challenges - there are SO many. We ended our conversation on a positive note by talking about what brings us joy in our teaching.
Some comments I heard during our conversation:
- keep an album or folder with notes students have written you (in one case, notes of encouragement and noticing little things, from the principal to the teacher)
- those challenging students who sometimes drive us crazy tend to be the ones who need us the most
- it's about the students - once we are with them in our classrooms, all is good (usually)
- we need good support from our administrators, and strong mentors for new teachers so they learn and don't leave the profession after their first few years
- it's important to tell our students also when we notice exceptional behaviors or work
- telling our students that we care about them can be transformational for them and it's important to do so
I started doing that last item more intentionally this year. Once this year, I told my ELL class that I loved them. They didn't buy it at first. They were like, "Love? Really, Ms.Lopez?" We were going through growing pains as a class, with the loss of students who had moved and the addition of an almost entirely new group (see earlier blog posts).
By the end of the year, they wrote it to me, too - all over my whiteboard, and on goodbye notes and letters.
That was when I could tell they knew I meant it when I said I loved them. Those are the moments that keep us going as teachers, and allow us to go back, year after year, in the face of all the challenges.