When I tell people that I am a first grade teacher, their comment is invariably, "I don't know HOW you do that. I could NEVER be closed in a room with 20 six-year olds."
Welcome to my world!
Before I go any further, let me tell you that I love my job with all that is in me. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the first grade learning that when Dick and Jane said "L-o-o-k" it meant "look". I absolutely remember everything about that magical moment (even though it was more decades ago than I'd be willing to type out here). My teacher, Mrs. Wilson, smelled like "Youth Dew" perfume and she was standing there with her pointer and the charts for reading. Leaning forward in my little chair knowing something Big was happening: I was reading. Heady stuff for a six year old.
Cut to the reality of being on the teacher's side of the pointer and charts. Entering my 20th year in the classroom has taught me many things about being a teacher.
Number One is you must begin the day totally prepared. There is no dress rehearsal. It is like being shot out of a cannon when the 7:35 a.m. bell rings. And you work without nets until the 2:45 p.m. dismissal bell. Everything had better be copied, stapled, laid out, planned, laminated and counted. (Last year I made the error of being one copy short of a worksheet. I left my room for the approximately 1 1/2 minutes it would take me to make that one copy. In that time, my classroom phone rang. A student answered my phone and told the caller she had "no idea where the teacher was or when she was coming back." I'm sure there is a note in my permanent file somewhere.)
Number Two is that approximately two minutes after you write Monday's date on the board, you will be writing Friday's date. Seriously: some weeks it feels like those scenes in a movie you can see the calendar pages tear off in rapid succession. The days just fly by. Except the month of May. It lasts for about six months. Summer fever sets in. Teachers move on a different time continuum from the rest of the world.
Number Three is there cannot possibly be a more joyous and rewarding job than working with children. Even after 20 years, there is not a day that I am not excited about going to work. I never forget the magical moments. W standing up one day in reading group when the light turned on and he said, "I can READ! I can READ!" And he could. I'm touched by all the sweet notes and pictures that often make it home to my refrigerator door. What other job includes handmade gifts on a daily basis?
But, lately, I've been having the desire to head back to school. I just want to "sharpen the saw" as Stephen Covey suggests. I want to be sure that I'm using the most proven and effective methods of teaching. In education, the new buzzword is "best practices." I applied and was accepted to finish my Masters. But somehow, that wasn't feeling right. And then another opportunity presented itself.
On Saturday morning, I began training for pre-candidacy for the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards certification. It will last until March, when I apply for Candidacy (which takes another year, followed by testing). Lots of homework, reading and writing, but it is an opportunity to ensure that my classroom and methods are the most effective that they can possibly be. I need to keep evaluating my teaching and looking closely to see what I can improve. The NBPTS will assist me in doing just that.
Maybe it is no concidence that "look" was the first word that our friends Dick, Jane and Sally taught us. I hope to never stop "looking" and "seeing" all that is wonderful about teaching.