If you’re a teacher, you most likely do this yourself and don’t need an explanation. If you’re not a teacher, this will probably have confused you every time you heard a teacher say it.
No, I didn’t give birth to these children, and I don’t tell them good night at the end of the day. I also don’t get to make life-changing decisions for them.
I do more than teach them reading, writing and math though.
I untangle the zipper of their jackets when it gets stuck and they can’t take it off (This happens far more often than you might think).
I take them to the nurses station to get their clothes changed when they got sick and threw up all over themselves.
I calm them down when they are upset.
I dry their tears when they are sad. (Again, you won’t believe how often kids cry and the many things they cry about. It ranks from having a disagreement with their best friend to not liking lunch that day.)
I get them to apologize to each other when they had a fight.
I encourage them to keep going when they are in a bad mood and they don’t even know why.
All of this happens between the reading, the writing and the math.
I get to see these children grow up. Change, evolve. On some days I see them win, on others I see them lose. Either way, I’m by their side. Because it’s my job to be there, for better of for worse.
What I’ve recently come to understand is that all that I’ve just explained works both ways. Even though I’m supposed to be the adult and role model, on some days, I lose, too.
I’m also a human being who has bad days. I get sick. I get upset. I get sad. I’m in a bad mood and don’t even know why.
I try not to take it out of my students of course, but they know anyway. Despite their young age, they can modify their behavior on a day like that and keep the shenanigans at bay. (I’m insanely lucky for having such empathetic students this year. I never stop being grateful for that.)
Being a newly qualified teacher is tough. On some days (lets be honest: most days), it feels like drowning. Drowning in never ending to do-lists and way too much responsibility on your shoulders. On top of that (or lets be honest again: because of that), I got severely ill, which resulted in an up and down of a health rollercoaster for months. I woke up in the morning countless times thinking I could simply not pull through the day.
What gets me through times like that is the face. The face that probably only parents and teachers know in children. I’ll try to explain what I mean by describing what happened to me during the school’s Christmas concert.
At some point during this concert I was on stage with my colleagues from the teachers’ choir to contribute a few songs. As I gazed around the audience, I saw what you normally see from this perspective: Serious faces, either focused or bored (or asleep). One face caught my eye though. A student of mine was sitting in the front row.
Unlike all the poker faces around him, he was beaming up at me with the biggest smile and the proudest look on his face that I had ever seen, as if saying: “That’s MY TEACHER up there!“ At the same time I could clearly see the “Please notice me!!“ in his eyes, and because I couldn’t wave at him in the middle of the concert, I smiled and blinked at him with both my eyes. He blinked back.
Being a teacher is a commitment much deeper than just being committed to your work. It’s commitment to little people. Seeing this student’s face at the Christmas concert, I started thinking this commitment might be mutual.
That’s why I refer to my students as “my kids“.