For those who don’t already know, I used to be a teacher. I taught at three schools in three continents, with assignments ranging from 6-12th grade. Those five years were the best and worst years of my life. I’ve previously written about why I gave up the noble profession, so now I want to recount why it was wonderful.
Here are my top 5 favorite teaching experiences.
5. My teaching buddies
Jouelle in Malaysia, Anna in California, and Lolomi in Morocco were tremendously helpful and supportive in crazy situations. I’ve seen several articles lately about how the best thing for your career is to have a “work wife,” and I’ve been blessed with three amazing women. Together, we shared burdens and successes, we collaborated and complained, we celebrated and grieved. Although working from home suits my current needs much better than teaching, I miss my teaching buddies.
4. All the funny things kids used to say.
I pulled these gems off of my Facebook memories:
Student: 10 year old boys don’t exist!
Me: 10 year old boys do exist. In fact, all the boys in this class used to be 10 year old boys.
Student: Not me.
Student: I skipped that year.
Me: Did you?
Student: Yeah, I’m like that guy who goes backwards. Like he was old and then becomes a baby.
Me: Benjamin Button?
Student: Yeah, that’s me. He wrote it about me.
Me: Oh, do you know who wrote it?
Student (confidently): Harry Potter.
Student: Miss Lohman! Do you like my shirt?
Me: I do! It’s the brightest pink shirt I’ve ever seen. Is that your soccer jersey?
Me: And you’re wearing the shorts, too! Why are you wearing your soccer jersey to school?
Student: Because I’m a pony!
Student runs into my classroom half a second after the bell: Owww!!! Miss, I was twerking and now my cheeks hurt!!!
3. Teaching teenagers how to handle emotions
One day at a parent/teacher conference, one of my favorite students (yes, I had favorites, but I worked hard to make sure nobody knew who they were) walked in the door near tears. He was fifteen, and widely regarded by the whole staff as a trouble-maker. To me, he was a darling. Oh, he was just as mischievous in my class as the rest, but he and I had an understanding. I’ll call him Ahmed, though that’s not his real name.
Ahmed threw himself into a chair and stared down at his hands. His father sat gingerly next to him, his face grim, yet calm. Before the meeting started, I decided Ahmed needed some loving attention more than an overview of his academic achievement. I explained to him that, as a teenager, he feels emotions more strongly than he did before, and that it’s perfectly normal to cry when your emotions are just too big. I told him that every boy in my classes (a bit of an exaggeration) needed to leave the room to cry sometimes, and that he’s not alone. I told him that everybody makes mistakes, and as long as you work harder next time, nobody will love him any less for those mistakes.
Then, I let him walk outside for a few minutes before I started the official meeting. Even though I had to tell his father the same disappointing news his other teachers told him, his father thanked me profusely for understanding his son. The next day at school, Ahmed brought me a bright red, handmaid, Moroccan leather wallet. I still use that wallet, and Ahmed still sends me messages sometimes.
2. Helping kids fit in
I’ll call her Allie. On the first day of seventh grade, Allie, who had just moved here from Long Beach, had red-rimmed eyes and puffy cheeks. Her parents walked her to my classroom door, and she was obviously conflicted about it. On one hand, she was too scared to come alone; on the other, it was embarrassing.
After 2 more days of watching Allie show up to school with red eyes, I decided class could start a few minutes late. After the morning announcements, I found a reason to start talking about my brother, who played baseball for Long Beach State. Several times in the conversation, I asked Allie questions about growing up in Long Beach, and she got to share some cool things from her hometown. The kids around her turned and asked her some questions, too.
The girl sitting next to her became her best friend within a week.
I had issues with administrators and with parents, and I don’t miss them at all. In my opinion, the school administration profession tends to attract awful people, and parents, even if they used to be completely rational human beings, are terrible people. Just the worst.
I miss my students, though. I spent more time with my students than parents usually do, and I knew all about them. I knew that one boy loved the way his name looked in my handwriting, so I’d occasionally walk by and write his name on his paper for him. I knew that another boy was drawing a comic book, so I’d ask to see his new pages every once in a while. I knew their crushes and I knew when they got grounded. I knew their favorite colors and the music they listened to.
They knew me, too! They knew who my favorite Ninja Turtle is (Michelangelo) and which Hogwarts House I call my own (Ravenclaw). They knew that a well timed pun would crack me up and that talking about one of the two fandoms I just mentioned would delay class starting for a few minutes. They knew about my gluten intolerance, so they brought me gluten-free cookies.
And the look they got on their faces when they finally understand something after struggling for a while made all the heartache worth it.
Honorable Mention: Teacher Puns