An Ode to Teachers

Here I sit. Sipping my coffee, a black Lab nestled in close, slowly starting my day. Being the natural planner that I am, my mind starts to put the hours in order. “Coffee now, eat a little something, read a little, get a workout in, shower and then head to mentoring.” I can feel the last item on my mental to-do list in my stomach.

When I first was hired to be a mentor/tutor at a local elementary school, I was excited and immediately romanticized the position. I had visions of my reading books to a small group of first and second grade girls. (Insert record scratch.)

Instead, my reality is this: eight fourth and fifth grade boys who literally NEVER stop moving. Or talking, or yelling, or texting, or running, or punching, or flirting. Nothing could’ve prepared me for their force of energy.

On top of all that, our tutoring program is specifically for new Americans. Most of my boys moved to US in the past two years under the status of refugee. This background adds many layers to an already challenging session.

Some of the older boys are having trouble adapting to the American school system – let’s just say they make frequent trips to the principal’s office. If the boys have secrets to tell or if they’re plotting anarchy, they simply speak in their native tongue. They also love getting away with saying naughty words in different languages in front of me. It’s only with the help of a few sweet, tattletale girls that I figure out what these words are.

And then there are the anger issues. Like all little boys, they like to push and play fight, but sometimes things get real very quickly. Insults are hurled at each other that I don’t understand, sweatshirts come off and punches are thrown. Yes, this has happened. Three times now. And I’ve physically had to hold two tiny, very angry boys apart.

Once the adrenaline has subsided in all of us, we try to talk it out, separate everyone and move on.

I can’t help but think there’s something more behind all the bad behaviors these boys are exhibiting. I’ve seen the sweet personalities that make brief appearances. I’ve seen the child-like excitement that crosses their face when we play a new game or learn a new word. Where is that boy all the time?

I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives have been like, what home is like or who they are outside of school. But some people can. There are school social workers and ELL teachers who are paid to help these kids succeed.

All I can do is try to connect with them during the manic three hours that we share Monday through Thursday. This task is tiring and overwhelming. How can I connect with these kids when I need to constantly reprimand them? Soon I’ll become another authority figure with too many rules.

And this thought brings me to something that crosses my mind every time I see my kids: Wow, I have the utmost respect for teachers. For the teachers who have kids like mine in their classes and do everything they can to understand the little person who is acting out. For the teachers who are compassionate and excited to show the world to their kids. For the teachers who have patience and empathy and see potential rather than “difficult” students.

I admire all the teachers of my past and present. You are doing invaluable work in this world that too many times goes without thanks.

So thank you. You are truly an inspiration.

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10 thoughts on “An Ode to Teachers

  1. Dawn says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Teachers and Police Officers have very hard jobs and don’t get paid nearly enough for what they do..

  2. Susan Winchell says:

    I have many good friends who have taught school their whole lives and I can’t agree with you more…..they are truly amazing! I am going to send them your blog so they can see that their efforts do not go unnoticed. Thank you for your insight! Susan

    • Lauren says:

      Thank you for reading, Susan! And thanks for sending my post out to other teachers – I’m happy to know that they’ll have a chance to read it. 🙂

  3. Ann Jorgenson says:

    Thanks , Lauren, for sharing an important part of your life. It sounds like you have a challenging group of students to work with. You are making a positive difference in their lives even though you may not think so. They are fortunate to have a dedicated, energetic person like you to teach them. Bless you and your great work! Your first grade teacher, Ann Jorgenson

    • Lauren says:

      Ann (or should I say Mrs. Jorgenson)! I’m so happy that you were able to read my post about teachers – you are the salt of this earth. 🙂 And thank you for your kind words. I’m trying my best to stay positive and revel in the brief moments of calm.

  4. Barb says:

    I love your blog, Lauren! Thank YOU for making a difference in a child’s life! I am sure that these boys will appreciate their time spent with you when they look back one day! It doesn’t matter how long you have been teaching, it is always a good day when a child learns something new, even if it’s learning just one new letter! This is especially true when they are excited about learning and are proud of their efforts. It looks like you have some very important work to do. You’ll be great!

    • Lauren says:

      Oh! Thank YOU for reading, Barb! 🙂 Even with all the ups and downs, my experience has been great as a mentor. I’m learning a lot about patience and the minds of little boys. Haha! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and thanks again for reading!

  5. Yvette Olson says:

    I loved your story and was so happy to know we have another mentor out there that is enjoying the moment. Your story reminded me of a little boy I had in third grade from Russia. They only spoke Russian at home. He picked up English very quickly. So he was the interpreter at the conference. His mother asked questions and I answered. I informed her on what we were working on. Her son translated it to the Russian language. There were times that she had a puzzled look on her face but I assumed it was just a different school, culture, and our ways. But when she told me that her son could only do homework if it came home as a Russian Worksheet and all work and projects done at home had to be in Russian. I explained that was not possible because it all came in English..She had a very puzzled look on her face so I explained further. I also said we were working on the son not swearing in Russian or any language or calling the teacher or students names in any language. Only English was to be used and only appropriate words. Ha! I never found out what he actually told her but she asked for another conference and this time the 5th grade sister was the interpreter. She told me that her brother had told the mom some outlandish things that I had said at the conference. Her mom questioned the son and he assured her that is what I was saying. I never found out what he told her but the sister said her mother did not know English but she would never trust her brother again to interpret for her. Ha! That little rascal always carried a twinkle in his eyes after that. 🙂 Enjoy your times with your little rascals. Yvette, Sewing Circle friend of Susan’s

    • Lauren says:

      I LOVE this story, Yvette! And I can absolutely relate. Haha! Thanks for reminding me to enjoy my time with kids more than anything else. My patience has been tested, but overall it’s been a great experience! Hope all is well at North Elementary. 🙂

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