The number of times I uttered the phrase “I don’t get paid enough to work here” during and after my time in the middle school today might be a new record.
I don’t know if you’ve worked much with MS kids, but they are an interesting group. Let’s just be honest – MS is hard. Each kid is at a precious, confusing age and life is weird. Suddenly you are developing different interests and, in some cases, becoming a different person almost overnight, which is scary for anyone.
The amount of growth – physical, mental, and emotional – I see reflected in my kiddos over the years is absolutely crazy. I am currently employed at the Chadron Middle School After School Program, and this is my 4th school year with my people (MS’ers). I’m not sure I can fully articulate my years spent in the halls of the MS, but I can say that it’s been a roller coaster. I’ve had the best days where I felt like I was walking on air and the worst days when I went home and questioned my ability to be a teacher. It has been an experience that I am thankful for; despite all of the long and challenging days, leaving in two weeks will be one of the hardest things I’ve done.
Today, though, was especially rough. To be honest, I spent most of the day counting down the minutes until I could leave. So when I finally made it home, I was jarred by reading the following question: “What do you love most about teaching?”
Wow. What do I love most about teaching? Although I’m not a classroom teacher yet, I have spent nearly 3.5 years with these students. I’ve watched them grow over the semesters, and I have, in some cases, spent every day for a year or more with them. Some of the bonds that we’ve formed are ones that I will always remember and cherish. With that being said, I think the thing I love most about teaching is the little moments.
The little moments make everything worth it. It’s the surprise hugs coming from the kids you least expect them from. It’s the animated talks about Star Wars and the latest pop culture craze (I cannot begin to tell you how many times I watched videos of the Harlem Shake). It’s seeing kids after a summer and suddenly they’re a foot taller but still just as sweet. It’s being approached by a student who hasn’t been to program in over a year to buy candles for a fundraiser because they thought of you. It’s catching up with those 8th graders who have been busy with sports and still feeling the close connection you made your first year working (which was pretty rocky if we’re being honest). It’s the smiles on the hard days. It’s being stopped in Walmart by high schoolers who remember you and want to catch up. It’s the talks sitting cross legged on the floor. It’s hearing “HEY MS. REGAN” being screamed out the window of a moving car. It’s the laughter. It’s learning about their family and background.
And, today, it was being grabbed in the hall by a 7th grade student and told that even though they haven’t seen me yet this year, they don’t want me to leave in 2.5 weeks.
It’s knowing that even though I have messed up time and time again, they still love me and want me here. This is the magic.
So what do I love most about teaching? It’s this. All of this. The love and compassion shown by kids that are in a volatile period of their life. It’s being loved and giving love. These kids are my people, and they gave me so many of my “firsts.” They allowed me to be human. They allowed me to grow.
They gave me an even bigger heart for teaching. I love them more than they will ever know.