Last month, during testing season, stress levels are at an all-time high—for my 8th graders and their teacher. So when a student stopped doing his homework, I stopped letting him into my classroom. He sat on the floor in the hallway and moped, while I circulated with the other 24 students in my classroom and let my emotions stew. And then we both went home angry.
My principal recently told me that I am well ahead of the first-year teacher learning curve. This is a compliment that all first-year teachers pray, wish, and hope to hear. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anything but thrilled. My administration thinks my 4th grade classroom always seems to “have it together.” I majored in education before getting my masters from the Teachers College at Columbia University. I should “have it together.”
The problem is: I don’t.
Sometimes I think that my kids deserve a better teacher. I feel this way especially after a giant behavioral meltdown, an assessment that shows little to no growth, or an administrator evaluation that didn’t go as smoothly as planned. At these points in time, I feel like a lousy educator, and I can’t imagine ever being a good one.
Last weekend I FaceTimed with one of my 1st graders for two hours. She gave me a complete tour of her house and introduced me to her abuelo and abuela. Her abuelo kept saying, “She loves you Ms. Grant. You’re all she ever talks about.” In this moment, I thought, just like I had a thousand times before, that kids like this one are the reason why I decided to do this work.
On Christmas Eve I received a text message that a dear friend of 12+ years was in the ICU in critical condition from an ongoing eleven-month battle with cancer. I met Zack in August 2002 at summer camp for children with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease; cancer was likely a result of medicine he was taking to stabilize the chronic disease we shared. With every day that passed of winter break, I sat by my phone waiting for an update on his condition. In January, Zack was taken all too soon from his family, his fiancée, his friends, and his camp family.
10,000 hours. That’s how long it takes for a job to become an expertise, but the trouble is I wanted to be an expert on day one. I walked into school ready to create the perfect classroom. My students were going to be diligent and kind, and they were sure as hell going to get the highest scores in 1st grade. I was confident and hopeful. I wrote it down—didn’t that make it destiny?
Years from now, if my students forget how to make a green screen on Final Cut Pro and the definitions in our Typography unit, or how to use specific software to edit their videos, that’s okay. Every day when I walk into the classroom, I make it my personal mission to make every student smile. Through my behavior and leadership in class, I try to promote positivity and embody an energy that brings happiness into the classroom.