Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What they want is our time

Disclaimer:  I started this post a couple weeks ago and am just now publishing it.

*****

It's August, and I feel like I haven't done nearly enough to get ready for the beginning of school.  Most of my summers have been spent in conferences around the state and/or planning for that new prep I'm about to take on.

This coming year (Year #7) will be my first year teaching exactly what I taught the previous year, and so I've let that be an excuse just to be lazy this summer.  That and I'm pregnant, which I feel is a valid excuse for just about anything these days.  And so now, it's August.  And because I'm prone to guilt, I've been feeling rather convicted about this laziness.

Until a student of mine called me up today.

Her reason?  She wanted to ask my permission to call me her mentor, because that's what she's been calling me all summer as she's counseled young girls at camp.

I don't do particularly well with flattery.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it as much as the next gal, but in the moment, I never know how to respond.  I'm trying this new thing where I just sit and listen and let the person tell me what they want to tell me.  Usually all I can muster up is a weak, "Thank you," or "I'm so honored..."  It all sounds so pathetic in light of their gracious words.

As I sit here, trying to remember exactly what this girl told me, all that's really coming to mind is her gratitude to me for taking time for her.  That's all.

I'm attempting to put my thoughts into words mostly for my future self, as a reminder.  Rebecka:  the hours you spend planning a single lesson or activity, it's all well and good (and necessary--the kids need to see this passion).  But the time you spend helping your kids understand how important they are to you...that's what they really remember.

So, my advice to both my current and future self:  Stop stressing so much.  Stop feeling guilty for taking time to relax and recuperate.  And start focusing on how you'll love on this year's group of kids.

Sometimes I think we live under the impression that we can't be too friendly or too nice or too "buddy buddy" with our students:  we're their teachers, not their friends; we need their respect.

Yes, we need their respect.  But, have you ever respected someone you didn't like?  Especially as a kid or as a teenager?

I want to take more time this year to ask about my kids' families, pets, hobbies, and jobs.  I want them all to know that I'm invested in them and that I care about them.  Because that's what they'll remember about math class.

I don't really care whether or not they remember the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus ten years from now.  I care about whether or not they felt safe, loved, and welcomed in Mrs. Peterson's classroom.  That's what I want them to remember:  that they were a priority.

*****

So, as the first day of school approaches tomorrow (AH!), my prayer is that we would bond as a class and as friends faster than ever before.  That mutual respect, love, and admiration would abound.  That we would all recognize that every single person has something to teach us.  That we would be better together than apart.

That I would give my kids my time and my undivided attention.

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