Wednesday, November 20, 2013

To All Teachers of Any Classroom. . .

An article has been circulating among my friends of Facebook. It was found right here: at

It’s a humorous article by Steve Wiens, titled:

Steve Wiens: To Parents of Small Children: Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud from May 3, 2013 17:02:32

It made me smile, and even chuckle every now and then. I’ve read it over a few times and decided to give it a try. . .here is my rendition of his article (with no intention to get in trouble for any copyrighting or all that jazz—I give ALL credit to him for what he wrote!) in order to send a note of encouragement to those teachers in my blog-world.

So here it is:

Susan: To Teachers of Any Classroom with Needs and Needs and More Needs: Let me Say it Out Loud. . .or at Least on this Humble Little Blog

I am in a season of my teaching career right now where I feel bone-tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-get-through-the-lesson-plans-by-the-end-of-the-day-or-even-get-them-through-this-year-learning-anything-at-all, hands-in-the-air, did-I-teach-them-anything-at-all exhausted.

I have a full class of primary students—the little ones. I'm not complaining about that. Not even one little bit. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I absolutely LOVE what I do! But the helplessness I sometimes feel—I could give that away. But I know I have a principal and superintendent and board and school community with high standards. I have a bunch of parents who have trusted their darlings into my care each day. And I have a bunch of wide-eyed students who are looking up to me . . . all the time. ALL the time!

I have a class with needs and needs and more needs. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week, one of them told me they wanted to be a teacher just like me when they grew up, which they thought would probably be about 2 years from now. Or the time when one of them prayed that they could be locked in the school so they could have a sleep-over with me and never have to leave the classroom. Or the time  when one student came up to me and wrapped herself around me in a spontaneous hug to which followed all of the others who are just itching for a class cuddle.

Oh, but there are also many moments when I feel like I have no idea how I'll make it until the end of the day. The constant demands, the outbursts, the yogurt spills on the carpet, the noise, the repeating of directions, the forms, the grading, the set-up, the clean-up, the “I-think-I’m-going- to-be-sick” moments, the e-mails, the phone calls, the problem-solving, the blank stares after 2-step directions are given. Oh they are like fingernails across the chalkboard. The gentle reminders I daily (or hourly. . .or is happening each minute?) give to not all shout my name at once or follow me around like a mother duck and her ducklings. Or shed tears or angry words when demands are not met immediately and to their liking.

photo credit
I’ve come to the stark realization that I am not an octopus with enough hands to juggle all of their papers or problems. Or a superhero who can jump in at any given moment to perfectly rescue them at exactly the right moment. Or a mind-reader who will magically know what is going on in their heads when they can’t get it out by way or words or pictures or actions. . .and follow their logic of course. Or a miracle worker. Oh, to be a miracle worker!

I’m just a teacher.

I have to confess that sometimes, it all drives me to chocolate. And I will neither confirm nor deny how much coffee I drink in one day or how much junk food might be stashed in my desk. Or how loud I play my music on my drive home.

There are people who say this to me:

"You are a great teacher! You can do it!"

I usually smile and give some sort of lame joke to brush the comment aside, but inside, I secretly don’t always feel like I am who they think I am. Sometimes I feel like I wasted a whole day of a child’s life. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t teach the lesson in a way that made them “get it.” Sometimes I feel like we are on a journey that is just too far and the end is not in sight. Sometimes I feel like they missed the point—or I missed the point.

If you are a teacher, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can't believe you get to be around these little people all day—five days a week; 6-7 hours a day. The joy, the bliss, the “ah-ha” moments, the successful projects, the cooperative group projects, the high test scores! But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:

You are not a terrible teacher if have tried the lesson three (or even 10) times with three (or 10) different approaches and they still give you blanks stares. Half of them are probably already doing calculations two grade levels up and solving major world problems as they stare.

You are not a terrible teacher if you need to take a story break sometimes. You are justified—you have little imaginations that need to be filled right there in your presence. Who knows if one of your students might become the next Dr. Seuss or Robert Munsch, or if they have already formulated the storyline for the next book about the Wimpy Kid or Star Wars.

You are not a terrible teacher if you can't figure out how to refocus their energy on the 18th math problem today and need to take a Body Break (of course that is the teacher lingo for run around like crazy for five minutes—you included!) instead. Mind and bodies need to grow and their bodies might be more needy today.

You are not a terrible teacher if you are wishing it were a snow day . . and it’s only  the end of September.

You are not a terrible teacher if you are wishing that the Pro-D meeting would end really soon because you have about 10 stacks of grading sitting on your desk and next month’s unit to plan and bulletin boards to plan and Centre activities to organize for the next school day. And today would have been a great day to get it done. . .instead of spending the weekend working on school stuff. . .again.

You are not a terrible teacher if you just can't wait for the end of the day after a school spirit dress-up day. Or even if it’s a Friday of a short work week.

You are not a terrible teacher if the sound of certain complaints no longer register as immediately urgent to deal with. You don’t like your sandwich again? Your shoes are wet after jumping in mud puddles again? Your pencil broke again? You lost your journal again? You don’t feel like writing today . . .or reading or doing math or science or socials or health? What exactly are you trying to say. . .again?

You're not a terrible teacher.

You're an actual real and normal teacher who has a desire for your students to learn and succeed in your classroom and in life. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for teaching and learning, where we feel like we're failing horribly if we give them more free writing time or add a few extra minutes onto recess or watch a video—even if it is an informational one and fits into the theme you are studying perfectly!

One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are over-saturated with information about the kind of teachers we should be. And we are getting so overwhelmed with that instead of being the teachers we were created to be.

So, maybe it's time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to be the best kind of teacher in 7 steps, with the best worksheets and centre activities, with the cutest graphics because obviously students learn better with cute pictures and the latest fonts. Maybe it is time to stop beating yourself up because you can’t figure out a way to teach this one skill in the absolutely best way possible and integrate it into five other subjects as well. Maybe it is time to stop worrying about what is the principal or other teachers or parents going to say about the project that sure looks messy now, but will have great results . . . just wait and see when we are done.

Maybe it's time to embrace being the kind of teacher who takes those “fails” in class and turns them into “wins.” Who prays regularly for your students and asks God to give you the right, calm, and confident words He wants you to speak into these students. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal teacher. Who uses moments in the classroom and the playground to recognize that we are sinful creatures who need a Saviour. Who can show that they are forgiven by showing that same kind of love to those around them. Who can model a servant heart and expect a higher degree of love to be shown on a regular basis. Who can show grace because you were shown grace when you needed it most by Someone who has a lot of it to give.

So, the next time you see teachers with that foggy or glazed or frustrated or pensive look in their eyes, take a moment to pray for them. Send them a note of encouragement. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they're doing a good job. That they are doing what they were created to do and are striving to follow the example of the Greatest Teacher. Just don't freak out if they start the waterworks. At times, we feel like we're botching the whole deal and our students will turn into . . .well, we aren’t exactly sure anymore.

You're tired. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that tops the world’s worst day ever list.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are making a difference. You just might not be the lucky one to see the results . . . at least not yet. But ask them in 15 or 20 years what their teachers did for them. They won’t repeat the list of how you feel the day went. You might be most encouraged to know that they will look back on today as one that spurred them to be exactly who God created them to be . . . because that is what their teacher taught them and how their treated them.

Go. . .and enjoy your day teaching those precious children of a God. The same God who gives courage and patience and rest. . .and go eat some more chocolate.

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