This week I had multiple opportunities to guest teach. All told I did so in fifth grade, third grade, second grade, and kindergarten, and I spend some solid quality time with our Autism Spectrum (ASD) students, teachers, and support staff. The experiences ranged from a half hour of reading and playing, to a couple of hours of facilitating various content lessons, and even a full day of guest teaching in third grade today. Aside from being wonderful, each of these experiences was eye opening, challenging, growth propelling, grounding, saw sharpening, and fun. It was time for me to shake off some of the dust and remember what it’s like to be a classroom teacher. Granted, one week of a few visits doesn’t the perspective of a classroom teacher make, but it did remind me of some stuff that might enhance my capacity to lead this organization in the days to come.
Teaching ain’t easy. There wasn’t a single moment during the several hours I spent in the classroom this week in which I was not expected to be “on.” No one was telling me what to do or that I had to be here or there. It was an implied expectation; very real, but relatively undefined…organic and ever evolving. The expectation came in the form of the multitude of enthusiastic voices that teachers hear all day long, asking for support, needing encouragement, and demanding attention.
By lunchtime I realized that I hadn’t used the restroom all morning, and that I needed to. I ate lunch looking at my watch. It was over shortly after it began. There was no time for a post lunch nap, or even to be tired. The moment I stepped foot back into the classroom I was expected to be “on” again. I needed to be. I owed it to the students I was teaching. They deserved it. All students deserve every bit of energy and enthusiasm that their teachers can muster every day, and every teacher I know gives just that. Teaching is wonderfully rewarding in so many incredible ways, but to put it plainly, teaching ain’t easy.
All kids truly can learn. Over the course of the week I came across lots of students, each one unique, each one with particular needs and curiosities, each one somewhat of a mystery until I got to know him/her a bit as a learner. In some cases that takes time. Some students have to learn to trust their teachers before feeling comfortable enough to engage in a curricular learning process. Some students get right into it.
Regardless, without fail, each student I worked with this week showed me at one point or another that he/she was willing and able to learn. There were times when I had to slow down. There were times when I had to speed up. When I exercised patience enough to look and listen thoughtfully I was often able to ascertain what each needed in any given moment. I certainly didn’t get it right every time, but I was repeatedly reminded that all kids have interests and abilities, which is a surefire functional combination for meaningful engagement. All kids truly can learn.
We are in this together. This morning one of my third grade colleagues walked into the room to let me know that she’s, “right next door if I need anything.” That was after getting the same offer from each of the teachers I passed on the way to my classroom. My other teammate sent me an email with the same offer. She left her phone extension and suggesting that I call at any time I needed to. There was a moment in which I wasn’t sure how to pull up the program I was supposed to be using in the interactive board. I dialed the extension and she was there within moments. She greeted the class, she happily assisted, and then she told me to let her know if I needed any more help.
Not a moment went by today when I wasn’t certain that I had every bit of support I would need to provide our students with every opportunity they would need to have a meaningful day of learning and growth. Teachers stick together. Educators stick together. All stakeholders in every school community stick together. We all have the same goal, wellbeing and achievement for the students we serve, and in that…we are all in this together.
If you’re a school administrator who hasn’t been the classroom for a minute, get in. There’s plenty to learn in there!
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.