I taught elementary school for eight years before I decided to stay home with my newborn son. I did not have any children when I taught, but I had that love for teaching that was within me from the time I was just a little girl. I started teaching fresh out of college and had so much energy and creative ideas that I brought into my classrooms. I loved my schools, my co-teachers, the parents and the students. I am still in touch with many of them today.
My son is now ten years old and I have a daughter who is eight. I have been away from the teaching profession for ten years, and now that I have kids of my own I often laugh at my former self as an educator. I know for a fact that if I were to go back to teaching today, things would be VERY different.
For example, when I taught, I was very strict about homework. I don’t think I ever gave an abundance of homework, but I sent home assignments that would piggy-back on that day’s lesson in order for the child to give it a shot on their own and be sure they understood the lesson. If a child came to school without their homework, they had silent lunch. No ifs, ands, or buts … silent lunch. That included their reading log. If it was not signed … silent lunch.
“Little Johnny, I am sorry that your dog died last night and you were in tears all evening, but if you can’t turn in your assignment you will have silent lunch.”
OK, I wasn’t THAT bad, but now I completely understand how easy it is for a child to not have their homework! The bus came early and their paper is still sitting on the kitchen table. Mom had to work late and by the time she got home you had already put your reading log away so she forgot to sign it. Dad got laid off at work and it was a tough night. Your baby sister was sick and mom didn’t have time to help you with your assignment. You left your planner at school. You did the wrong page. The list goes on and on.
Think of how often we forget things as adults! Life gets crazy and forgetfulness happens. Now I get it.
I still would not tolerate repeated offenses with forgotten homework because I am a firm believer in teaching kids to be responsible and independent, but on a night when their dog died, I think I would let it slip. 🙂
Another thing I would do differently is to be a little more cautious. Let me explain. I was the type of teacher who wanted every kid to set a goal and achieve it. Once they achieved that goal, I was all about rewards!! Everyone’s goal was different, so everyone’s reward was different. Sarah and Rebecca finally made straight A’s, so I took them to the mall. Adam finally went a whole week without “flipping his card to red” so I took him out for ice cream. You get the idea. All of these things were so much fun, and fifteen years ago no one thought twice about them. Now, you would not catch me alone with a child going out for ice cream. The rules are different. Teachers can be accused of anything at anytime. Being alone with a child is not the best idea. It makes me sad that teachers now have to worry about that, but it is true. Same thing goes for when I would tutor kids before and after school. I don’t think I would allow myself in a car or in a classroom alone with a student anymore.
Lastly, I think I would “tune in” a little more to each child. This is easier said than done. I always taught students in small groups or individually as much as possible, but there were still so many kids who slipped through the cracks. It was easy to tell when Rambunctious Randy did not understand something because he would scream out and tell me he didn’t understand. It was easy to tell when Straight-A Susan didn’t understand something because she would get upset and cry. But what about Average Allen who just looked at me with no emotion, copied the work, and never said a thing? His struggle with comprehension was covered up by Randy and Susan.
I would also “tune in” more to their emotions each day. Some kids just have bad days and don’t voluntarily tell anyone. I think I would do a better job of asking a child what was wrong if it looked like he was upset or frustrated. I am not sure I would accomplish this goal of being a little more in-tune to each child, but I would try my best. Now that I am a mom I see how much goes on in those little heads of theirs, and often times they just need a bit of prompting to open up.
All in all, teaching was really a lot of fun. We certainly laughed every day. Even when I was at my wit’s-end with behavioral problems or lack of understanding from children, we always found a way to laugh. So if I went back to teaching today, that is one thing I would not change. I would do what administration asked me to do as far as testing, documenting, etc because I know it is required, but I would continue to keep in mind that kids are kids and the most important thing about their childhood is that they live a happy one.
Any other teachers out there (former or present) who would like to chime in? We would love to hear your thoughts through a comment below!