Before I started teaching, I attended a training with ESU 6 in Seward.
Something said there really hung with me. Ya’ know, sometimes in life certain quotes just hang with you. I was brand new to the profession, having just left my Features Editor job at the paper. Jumping careers was one of the scariest things I have ever done, and to be honest, as I sat in this weeklong training surrounded by all these teachers who never had a doubt in their mind they wanted to be a teacher, I was horrified.
What was I thinking? I don’t know how to teach kids.
The only thing I had confidence in really was my knowledge of my content area. I had spent a huge chunk of my life taking classes on authors like William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and when I wasn’t swimming in literature, I was being pushed by a writing professor to write alongside the greats. And not to brag, but when I wasn’t doing that English-y stuff, I was minoring in philosophy and Spanish because I always enjoyed being busy in college.
I knew that stuff.
But there I was, sitting in this crowd of first year teachers listening to speakers talk about things like socioemotional development and scaffolding.
What in the world had I gotten myself into?
But then a speaker got up there and said the most profound thing: “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.”
Fast forward to now. Here I am in the middle of my second year of teaching.
When you walk into my classroom, your eyes might be drawn to the brightly colored paper planes stuck in the ceiling. You might even wonder how they got up there. Well, one of my seventh grade boys started it. Apparently getting these little things to stay up there requires quite the skill, which this particular student has taught a few of his peers.
I am a couple weeks into this fad and almost my entire ceiling has tiny paper planes in it. I did request some color variety last week, so the kids started mixing up their paper color.
You might be asking why.
Because I care. My ceiling is a neon colored representation of the relationship I have built with my students. I let them do this because I care, and my students know this. I am not sure if these kids will remember what a preposition is and I am not sure how much of the literature I teach them will stick, but I do know that they’ll remember those paper planes.
Last year, I was teaching fifth grade reading. We were doing an interactive notebook activity when someone’s glue stick ran out.
“Mrs. Peyatt, I need a new glue stick!” the student yelled.
“First, we have to properly say good-bye to this one,” I responded.
One thing led to another and next thing I know, I am standing in a circle around the trash can about to throw this glue stick away as my students hummed funeral music.
As the students left class that day, I heard one student whisper to his friend, “That was the coolest thing ever.” The class laughed about it over the whole lunch period that day.
I actually ran into one of those students over the summer, and guess what? She mentioned the glue stick funeral.
Because that is the stuff they remember us teachers for.
They remember the relationship building more than anything.
I did not need to know how to teach kids to be in this profession, and believe it or not, I’m not sure I needed that William Faulkner class I took.
I need to care. That is it.
While standing in line after recess last week, a student looked at me and said, “Mrs. Peyatt, I like you because you’re happy. So happy all the time.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
I have found my calling in this profession, and what I find most interesting is that it isn’t the teaching of the English part that I love so much, it’s the kids — the relationships.
I am not always “great” at this job, and please do not ever judge my ability to be a working mother. There are days when I have to assign seven students to the job of reminding me to do something because I know I’ll forget, and I make them turn their papers into a designated tray because I know I’ll lose it if it comes too close to the dark hole that is my desk. Every day of this profession is a learning experience. I saw a quote the other day that said, “The first 30 years of teaching is the hardest.” That could not be truer. Every year, every day, and every minute is a learning experience.
I have concluded that I will never be perfect at this job, but the one thing I will never stop doing is caring.
Truly, my students do not care what I know until they know I care.
Over the weekend, I sent a picture of my classroom ceiling to my niece who is a ninth grader with the caption, “Apparently I’m ‘that’ teacher.” She texted me back saying, “Yeah, but ‘that’ teacher is always the best teacher.”
I can only hope she is right.