This year was my first year teaching and the last year of my masters program. I still remember the first week of school when I had to excuse myself from the room and find a quiet place to reflect on if teaching is really what I wanted to do. I had just restrained a student, my other students were putting me through a vetting process, and I didn't feel as though I was doing well. I am so very happy I was able to come back to the classroom, get control, and pass their test.
I have learned a lot this year about teaching, which no teacher education program can prepare you for. I have learned how to cope with the stresses of the educational bureaucracy while teaching students with EBD. I have learned to maintain excellent grades in school and have some resemblance of a personal life. I have learned how to advocate for children in a manner in which no party feels defensive and I am able to mediate nearly any situation with students, parents, teachers, or any combination.
I went from teaching random students assigned to me by their IEP and the school counselor, to teaching ‘my kids’ to whom I feel a responsibility that I can only imagine resembles that of being their father. I think about them all the time, call them during breaks to make sure all is well, and look forward to Monday mornings when I can hear about their weekend adventures (of which I will claim no memory of in an official stance as to not become an accessory to anything). I held their hands through some of their lowest of lows and celebrated every high moment through the year.
As a teacher, I have sharpened my ability to get students interested in learning. I have learned how to push my students through difficult tasks and to enrich their lessons.
I think back on my students and their growth and can do nothing but smile in amazement and glee. I recall my sixth grader, who came to me unable to subtract and read beyond a 1st grade level. He left me for the summer being able to multiply fractions and read 2nd-3rd grade level books!
I think of my eight grader, who I lost to the justice system and then the alternative school, when he came to visit me the day he got out of youth detention. He has a problem creating bonds with people, yet we have a bond that even his mother relishes. I think of how mature he became in our conversations on what happens next.
I think of one of my seventh graders, who started the year without the ability to control his emotion or identify when he was getting angry. He ended the year as my best buddy, attached to my hip at all times, forever smiling, and aware of himself. He leans across his desk to mine, and simply looks at me and says,” Mr. Williams, I feel it.”
To some these may not be major accomplishments, simply what should be expected of any student, to grow. To me these accomplishments resemble that of when I first learned how to read and the world opened its doors to me. These students are at a very critical point in their lives where they can be guided down a path of success or left to wander and end up in trouble or worse.
I have never been so sure of anything in my life, but I am sure that I was meant to be an educator and I thank my students for helping me find my passion and love.