This is an excerpt from one of my absolute favorite author’s, Phillip Done’s, most recent book. He writes about being a third grade teacher in a humorous but very heartfelt way…those 2 things are so important in making a great teacher (in my opinion at least). Enjoy!
On my desk at school there is a treasure chest. Is filled with construction paper cards decorated with glitter glue, school photos framed with popsicle sticks, and pictures drawn with tropical marker and colored pencil and love. If I’m in the drawings, I am usually as tall as a schoolhouse in the background my head is bigger than the sun.
Next of parents, teachers are the most influential people in children’s lives. We love, care, guide, and nurture. We collect baby teeth, check heads for fevers, and can punch the little silver dots on top of juice boxes with one swift poke of the straw. We are used to being called mom and dad. I wonder: why don’t we have a word that captures the essence of being a teacher — a word that income this is the spirit of teaching? Motherhood and fatherhood are words. Parenthood is a word. I think teacherhood should be a word, too.
Teacherhood is knowing that softer voices are more effective than louder ones, that students read better under their desks, that you always hand out birthday treats at the end of the day, that kids will not hear the difference between than and then, the children will always choose chocolate chip cookies before oatmeal and raisin, and that if the only office supply store is having a back-to-school sale on folders but will only let you for just 20 folders at a time — buy 20, leave the store, return, grab another 20, and go to a new register.
Teacherhood is understanding that you should never try to teach anything on Halloween, that when kids start learning cursive they forget how to spell, that students who are usually quiet will become chatty the week before Christmas break, that desks swallow papers, that any given moment a child could announce something random like he’s been to Denver and saw a banana slug, that the best lessons on paper can tank in real life, the children who are about to throw up are clingy, that reading nothing but comics is like eating only pasta your whole life, and that for show and tell you do not ask Teresa to bring in her cat and Trevor to share his dog on the same day.
Teacherhood is knowing that when kids hold up their multiplication flashcards to the light they can see the answers on the back, that children will leave the t out of watch and the second m out of remember, that you always explain instructions before handing out the blocks (or beans or marshmallows), that cupcake paper is edible, that the pile of red construction paper in the supply room will be lowest in February, that when the air conditioner man comes into the classroom and starts removing ceiling tiles — stop teaching, and that when children see their teacher burst out laughing or fight back tears while reading a book — they witnessed two of readings greatest rewards.
Teacherhood is prying staples out of the stapler with a pair of scissors, following muddy tracks to a student’s desk, asking questions about things when you already know the answers, laughing at knock knock jokes you’ve heard 300 times, being able to make 37 different things out of a paper plate, locating the exact book that a child is searching for when all she knows is that it has a yellow cover, knowing that a storm is coming without looking outside, pushing desks that have crept up throughout the day back to their original places, finding yellow caps on blue markers, and counting to five while each child takes a drink at the drinking fountain so that no kid hogs all the water.
Teacherhood is correcting papers while watching Letterman, calculating how many workdays are left until the middle of June, singing the ABC song out loud when looking up a word in the dictionary, taking the 7 AM dentist appointment, asking the woman at the dry cleaners if she can get out glue stick, unrolling a brand-new package of paper towels because you need one more for an art project, taking your students out for free play and calling it PE, knowing that no matter how much food you have at the Thanksgiving feast — kids will just grab the popcorn, and calling your student three different names before finally getting it right.
Teacherhood is standing in the center of the dodgeball circle while 20 children try to get you out, counting kids heads on a field trip, confiscating yardsticks that have magically turned into swords, snitching candy from your own goody jar, collecting abandoned bird nests, scooping goop out of pumpkins, understanding that the cursive m is easier to write than cursive k, having 97 items in your emergency kit backpack but not being able to find Band-Aids, and knowing all about cabbage patch kids, beanie babies, Pokémon, Smurfs, Elmo, Tamagotchis, Webkinz, and Bakugan before they became hot.
Teacherhood is writing Do Not Touch! on the tape dispenser then hunting for it the very next day, sweating over not being able to get the DVD player to work while 20 kids offer to “help,” waiting in front of Target the morning after Thanksgiving to save 50 cents on ribbon, making rain parkas out of hefty bags when it starts pouring on the field trip, expecting more chase games on the blacktop in the spring than in fall, claiming that a rock is a very important role in the school play, yanking so hard on the wall map and it shoots up and jumps off the metal hooks, having butterflies the night before school starts, and understanding that a child may forget what you taught her — though all was remember how you made her feel.
Spin up your back-to-school thoughts!