Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Career Change?

I ended up teaching in a middle school the same way many teachers do. There were no positions in the high school. At first I taught middle school language arts while coaching cheerleaders at the nearby high school and waiting patiently for some high school teacher to retire or have a baby or move to another state.

But one day a few years into my career, I woke up and loved middle school. I've talked about it before. I realized at some point that middle school students are funny and smart and challenging and lovable; they emcompass everything I could ever need to experience job fulfillment. I love watching them participate in their first competitive sports, their first chorus performances, and their first student councils. I see them fall in love for the first time, get their hearts broken, and possibly struggle in school like never before.

And when those things happen, I'm there...cheering them on, wiping their tears, giving them hugs...I love a middle school child.

But something has happened in the past couple of days that may be life changing and career altering. I have fallen in love with elementary school children.

In the past two days I have visited two different elementary schools. And I am finding myself surprisingly drawn to children who are no taller than my knees. The reasons are clear: one - they love me, and two - they are cute as bugs!

When I say they love me, I mean all I have to do is walk in a room, and there they are, all grins and waves. I've even gotten a couple of hugs from tiny total strangers. So simply put - I love them back: I love their little bitty clothes and shoes and lunchboxes and their huge gaptoothed smiles.

All of a sudden I think I would love to teach elementary school. There's only one problem. I don't know how. I feel pretty good about motivating an adolescent to read. However, I have no clue how to help a kindergartener recognize that A is for Apple.

I would love those little cuties, though. We would hug and play, and I promise I would resist the urge to bite the little darlings. Maybe there's an elementary classroom somewhere in my future. But for now it seems those schools are well staffed. I guess I'll have to wait for someone to retire...or have a baby...or.....

Here's my buddy Samuel. I plucked him right out of the lunch line. Those snaggly teeth were just adorable to me, and he was so cute in his little vest!

I found this cutie patootie getting ready for lunch and asked his name. He barely whispered it so I told him I didn't hear him. He took a deep breath and yelled, ETHAN!!!" across the cafeteria. He was so excited to get his picture taken.

Not to be outdone by Ethan, Christopher asked to have his picture taken, too.

And just an end note - Sarah is a precious fifth grader who gave me a tour of her elementary school. When we arrived at the teacher's lounge she announced, "This is where the teachers go to relax when they have finished all of their work and don't have any more papers to grade." I tried really hard not to laugh while envisioning a time like that.

1 comment:

mnmsalyer said...

Middle school kids have so few people who understand and champion their needs. When I read the beginning of your posting, I worried that they could be losing one of their greatest cheerleaders. Any child would be lucky to have you as a teacher, but the middle kids need you in a way that not every teacher can serve.

Reading further, I see that you're having the kind of reaction that we have when we see a new baby, but in the teacher context. You've just had a wave of baby-school fever!

As I contemplate the reality that my youngest will enter kindergarten this coming August, I wonder if the teaching world will come calling my soul again. Clearly, your soul is firmly planted where it has always belonged!