I actually have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I’ve also thought I had a natural talent with kids and I would make an great teacher. Many people have reaffirmed my beliefs throughout the years; some were my family members but also my peers. Even in college I spent the first two years in the teaching program before switching to psychology. Part of the reason for my change of mind was that my sister was already a teacher and I wanted to do something different. The other reason was that I knew I wanted to work with populations that were disadvantaged and at the ripe age of 19, I didn’t know how much that existed in schools.
When I joined Teach for America it seemed like the perfect marriage between wanting to teach and working with underprivileged children. During my months of Teach for America training staff constantly told us, “This will be the hardest thing you have ever done.” But what also echoed was that we wouldn’t understand what that truly meant until we were in the thick of it. Probably like many of my peers, I just brushed these words off. I kept telling myself I knew it would be hard but that I also would be somewhat naturally good at this, even though they also repeated the mantra “Great teachers are made, not born”. I’ve been working with kids for as long as I can remember and I am patient and kind and everything else that I thought made a great teacher.
Well what I have come to realize in the past month of teaching and being “in the thick of it,” TEACHING IS EXTREMELY HARD. You give every ounce of yourself and your energy to students. For the caregiver personalities like myself, this results in no free time, no sleep (forgive the grammar mistakes), and definitely no real life outside of teaching. I work my butt off day in and day out for these kids and it is exhausting. This is DEFINITELY the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It’s not the kids that make it hard. They are actually the best part of the job and if it wasn’t for kids, I don’t know how teachers would get up every morning. What I find most challenging is trying to do it all in a very short amount of time. Being the overachiever that I am, I cannot settle with things not getting done, especially when it pertains to my kids. A lot of what also makes my job so stressful is the bureaucracy, the red tape, and the fact that I often have no idea what is going on or what is expected of me until after the fact. I am trying to roll with the punches and just keep my head above water but some days my body just fails me. I want so badly to keep working relentlessly, but I literally cannot keep my eyes open or get my brain to function at certain points. I am at school by 7am every morning and don’t leave until after 7pm at night. That’s a 12 hour work-day at the office with an additional 4-5 hours at home working. By Friday I crash. I actually fell asleep at 6:30pm tonight and just woke up about 45 minutes ago. Most would think that I must “live for the weekends” and to some extent I do. However, Saturday is my only “weekend” day which is usually spent grading Friday’s quizzes, running errands, and a possible attempt at relaxing. Once Sunday hits, it’s back to work all day long to get ready fro the upcoming week. I remember having friends and being a 23 year old at one point, but now it all just seems like distant memories I reminisce about while looking at pictures.
Most would read this and think I’m miserable, which is actually not the case. Yes, this is the hardest, most exhausting thing I have ever done but at the same time it is all worth it when I look into the beautiful faces of my 43 students. They keep me going everyday. They really are the fuel for my fire and my burning passion to help them succeed. I get choked up just talking or thinking about them because I love each and every one of them and care so much about them and their futures.
I love the ones who are so invested in their learning and give 110% no matter if they failed in the past. I love the ones who cannot leave my room in the afternoons unless they personally come say goodbye to me. I love the ones who even though they get may be getting off task, still make me laugh. I love the ones who think that getting picked to eat lunch with me is the best thing that has happened to them. I love the ones who are struggling so much with reading and write me secret notes so no one else knows. I love the ones who don’t speak English but are learning more phrases each and every day. I love the ones who bring me a new picture they drew every morning when I really wish they would focus on their homework more. I love the ones who have Mohawks and braids. I love the toughest boys who cry when they get in trouble. I love the ones that still, everyday, forget to grab and take off their name tags. I love the ones that think stacking chairs is the best job ever. I love the ones who will not stop talking even after I’ve told them 5 times. I love the ones who write me notes apologizing for the class’ behavior. I love the ones who are way too interested in my personal life like if I’m married or how old I am. I love the ones who can be bullies but underneath I know it’s just a lot of hurt. I love the ones that I have to struggle with everyday to not give up on themselves and their education. I love the ones who will still raise their hand to read aloud even if they are on a 1st or 2nd grade reading level. I love the ones that tell me they are going to go to Harvard or Yale. I love the ones that think earning a class “quiet point” or college(table) point is the best reward. I love the ones who will ask me what the directions are after I just explained it–twice. I just love the ones that are so helpful–and sometimes too helpful. I love the ones that are so invested in our class chant “Buckle Up, Destination College!” that they scream it from the top of their lungs when we say it. I love the ones who scream and yell but are able to calm down and pull themselves back together later that day. I love the ones who call me “Ms., Ms”, “Ms. V” or “Ms. Valsechi (phonemically) because they still don’t know how to pronounce my name. I love the ones who call me out when I breakout on my face due to stress (aka them). I love the boys who act like they don’t want to hug me before they get on the bus but I know they really do. I love the fact that there are 43 different personalities in my class and that each day is a new and different challenging day.