One of the surprising bits of being a new teacher is all the aspects of the job that you don’t expect. Yesterday, one of our school volunteers — a volunteer grandfather — came to see me during my prep period. He wanted to tell me about something good that was happening in his life, some recognition he got from an unexpected source. He was proud and wanted to brag a little bit. I was happy to be there for him — his beaming pride was very similar to a student who has just gotten an unexpected A+ on a paper. I was also touched that he trusted me enough to know that I’d listen and that I’d be supportive. Yay for him and yay for me.
I’ve had that feeling before and it’s a good one. Recognition of your skills from an unexpected source — perhaps one so unexpected you didn’t even know you hoped for it. Wonderful. For me it happened when I was invited to deliver a seminar at a technology workshop for higher education. It was empowering to have this group come to me and say that I was the one to teach poeple skills that I took for granted. It was a long term goal — and one I could check off with pride.
Feeling big is such an amazing thing. I have had a chance to feel big and to give that feeling to my students lately. Last year, I helped to create a leveled math program at my school. We ran it for the 4th grade and I had the low-performing students in my group. I had a group of 10 students and I taught them their math, modified it so that they learned better, gave them their tests, and graded them. We stayed with the other levels of math groups in 4th grade. This year, I’m teaching 5th grade and I have the low group again. I love it. Having the same group of kids for 2 years is wonderful. The growth that I see in them is phenomenal and I feel like I have really made a difference in their lives — watching them turn from students who hated math to students who feel confident about math makes me feel big! We have been doing several weeks of division — straight long division review, then dividing decimals, then dividing fractions, and more and more and more. My students are acing it — A’s and B’s on tests. Huge successes. I have been so proud of them and I have been lavish in my praise. Watching them beam with pride is an amazing feeling.
Giving my students that feeling of being big is another surprising aspect of teaching.