As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
Everyone knows the feeling you get when you know something big is coming. This feeling might come when you have had a weekend off and are planning to go back to work the next day. Or when you are anticipating a big trip, and the last little bit of wait time seems to take forever.
The month of August, for teaching staff, can feel like one long Sunday night. It might seem a little odd, especially for those who do not have a full summer off, to think an entire month could feel like that. After all, we have had at least two months off. We should be excited to get back in the classroom! It’s surprising how much the anticipation of a new school year can excite and create a feeling of trepidation inside a teacher.
Teaching involves a lot of energy. You’d be surprised how many teachers would identify as introverts, meaning they build up their energy in their alone time instead of with people, as extroverts do (or so goes the very general gist of the two). I am an introvert. Managing 20 or more students, interacting with coworkers, being present with family, having a social life, and church involvement all involve a lot of time with other people. This takes a lot of energy for me. While these are all good things, knowing school is coming and the lifestyle change it requires, can be daunting. I want to be available at a whim; I want to say yes to as many things as I can in the summer. However, in order to be healthy, whole, and holy as a person, I need a lot of boundaries and space to be present. This can be a hard reality coming out of weeks of unscheduled time.
Teaching means responsibility for the learning of said 20 or more students, all coming from different backgrounds and experiences, learning abilities, and motivations. These are all things teachers begin to figure out, already at our meet-the-teacher/drop-off-supplies open house. Observations are being made of how the parent interacts with their child, how they interact with the teacher, and their level of independence when putting supplies in their desks. This period of observation continues into at least the first eight weeks of school. This is a lot of information to take in. Parents hope for their child’s teacher to know their child, and that is certainly the goal, but getting to know 20 individuals is a difficult, though rewarding, task. Knowing this is coming can be overwhelming.
To add to that brain energy are concerns such as classroom management, teaching the curriculum well, and building a classroom community that fosters safety in who God has created them to be. This also means independence, learning from mistakes, being willing to try again, and having personal motivation to do well. What a task we are called to as teachers, and how hard it can be to reach all those things!
However, teaching is exciting. While it can be difficult to get to know all your students really well, the interactions and learning about each other is a pleasure. Students are learning how to become good and God-fearing adults. This is a huge task for any parent, teacher, or adult mentor in a child’s life. Seeing things click and how students grow in those seven or more hours per day over 10 months is something I never imagined while working to get my teaching degree.
Yet teaching is a place where growth is always happening—in the students and in the teacher. Learning is exciting, and showing your own excitement to students inspires them further. Pointing out talents and ways to grow and how certain concepts might help in a future career is not what every adult gets to do. Teachers are always brainstorming better ways to help their students, conversing and growing through their coworkers, and gaining valuable tidbits that enhance their teaching style. It is amazing how small one piece of advice can change a lesson, maybe even a day.
This is also a space where, when you take time to get to know your students and genuinely care for them, they care for you, too. Sometimes teachers are in the classroom when something has happened at home, or they might not be feeling at the top of their game. The compassion and kindness coming from these small children is truly a blessing. Their excitement over milestones, or celebrating a birthday, reminds you of what matters. It’s not always the big things that stand out in a year.
Teaching is hard. The students can be challenging, the parent interactions can be difficult, and now with pandemic effects to navigate, this year is going to be different than any previous year. However, I know that despite how long (or short) this ‘Sunday night’ has been, it is time to be back in the career I have chosen, and I can do so knowing I am not in this alone.
This long Sunday night is just about over. Teachers are beginning to head back to their classrooms, into planning meetings, and figuring out what students will be in their care for the next year. While feeling ready, life is going to be different in a few short weeks. As you also anticipate the school year, I hope your preparations go smoothly, your words are full of grace, and your actions show that God is ultimately in control. This is going to be quite the ride.