I saw my class list yesterday and immediately did the thing that every teacher does. I found some lower grade level teachers and asked about my list of names. How were they last year? Reading level? Were they friendly/bullies/insert a label here.
And perhaps because I met some of these "labels" last night at our "meet the teacher," I am apologizing to the Universe in the form of this post.
I met a label who was surrounded by his hard shell and a mama who was worried about his low reading level.
I met another label who didn't say one word to me, her dad filling out my form and her big sister doing most of the talking - telling dad about her sister's birthdate, asking questions about where the supplies should go, and then worrying about whether her little sister has enough supplies with her. I wanted to hug that girl; that family.
Labels we assign to things to categorize and organize.
I know we are more than our labels. And if my daughter's 5th grade teacher were to assign my daughter a label for her 6th grade teacher, it would be 'chatty,' 'sweet,' 'needs redirection.' Labels that I would be saddened to hear as a mom about her child.
And what about me? I would have been the one that the teacher wouldn't have remembered. The quietest kid who was neither brilliant nor smart enough to stand out.
And as a teacher - what did these students hear about me last year? Were they excited when they saw my name on the welcome email? Or did they cry about having to get me?
We are more than our labels and yet we cannot help but categorize ourselves, peers and people into what we believe to be true. To make them fit into a box.
I am going into next year with an open mind and heart. Yes, labels do help us categorize. No, we shouldn't put our students' in these preconceived boxes and never let them out to explore what more than can be; who they could become if they weren't given the negative labels. They are just kids after all.
So I apologize, dear Universe and will try to do better. And if there was to be a category that I was going to be forever stuck in - it would be the 'pushy teacher,' - the one who never gave up and pushed for higher expectations and expecting that her students would go above that and more. I would want to be the teacher that last year's students' set out to find. I saw several students go down my hallway and see their disappointed faces when their teacher from last year wasn't there, and new teacher faces peered at them in curiosity.
And truly, my heart burst when I saw 2 of mine from last year find me in a completely different wing of the school to tell me who they have this year and the friends who will be in their class. They gave me hugs and we wished each other a great year.
One would have been labeled 'high achiever,' gentle giant and would make his teacher smile and boast about him all year long.
The other one, my sweet little, would have been labeled 'at risk,' in many different ways. But every day, she worked hard, and I was so proud of every little milestone that we carved out together that she met. And I would love to have her again in my class next year to see how much she grew. That's the one to watch out for. The ones who grow stubbornly at their own pace. The ones who are not only try-ers but do-ers in all the best ways because they didn't have a teacher that assigned them one label all year long.
If you are a new teacher and you get your class list and a lower grade sees a name, please note that and then put it away. Yes, it can be helpful but there could have been different personalities involved in that classroom that you know nothing about. And we don't usually remember the days when it was ordinary, and everyone did what they were supposed to do. We usually flag and keep the memories of that one day the student did this or that. Remember that there are 180+- days of school. I don't remember all of it. I probably can tell you and describe about 5 days that I was frustrated/upset/insert negative emotion here. And if anything as stressed and crazy those 5 days were nothing compared to the stories I heard about from the class next door. We all have bad days, and I had the best class last year who gave me enough grace and love that I was able to pour so much to them. Will your year look like mine last year? Probably. Probably not.
Will my year look like last year's? I hope so. I hope in my bad days that I know are coming I remember that sweet little who showed me the different ways she handled stress and how we were able to calm down together.
I hope I remember that high achiever who became confident and read books to his friends and classmates.
I hope I remember last night's 'meet the teacher,' and the way I was sought out and hugged.
However you got into teaching and wherever you are in your teaching journey, I think we can all agree that that is probably the best feeling as both a parent and a teacher. Your child's teacher meant so much to your kiddo that they ran down the hall to greet them. In your stressed out moments that will come, that's the one to label. The imprints and impact we are leaving behind.
Wishing all you educators and parents a great school year.
I drink too much coffee, read too many books, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.
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