One of the things I love most about teaching is that every year is a fresh start. While I still think about my former students, I look forward to starting over each year with a new group.
A new group of students brings with them a new mix of personalities, strengths, and challenges. Because of this, every year is different. Every day is different.
You may teach in the same room from one year to the next, but your classroom is never the same. The people inside the space change the space.
Another school year is coming to an end. In 13 years, I’ve taught in 3 different buildings, 4 different classrooms, and have had the opportunity and privilege to teach over 300 students.
Even with all that experience, this has been the most challenging year of my teaching career. At times I have felt restless. Earlier this year, I heard Jill Briscoe speak and she said,
“You go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you have until you’re done.”
I don’t know if I will spend my entire working career in a classroom, but I do know that God hasn’t called me out of the classroom yet. And because of that, I continue to invest my time and energy into the students with whom I’ve been entrusted.
Even though I’m their teacher, this year, my students taught me an important lesson.
They helped me realize just how much of an influence teachers have over their students.
If we model love, compassion, patience, kindness, and respect to our students, they are more likely to be loving, compassionate, patient, kind, and respectful to others. Our students look to us and will follow our lead.
When thinking about what I could do to end the year and influence my students in a positive way, the phrase, “Speak love,” kept coming to mind.
I wanted my students to leave our classroom feeling loved and encouraged.
I wanted to speak words of affirmation over them, so that they would know how to do this for someone else.
And so I sat down and wrote “Tootle Notes” to each of my 23 students.
In case you’re wondering, a “tootle” is a specific compliment/praise. It is the opposite of a tattle. Throughout the year, I have written “Tootle Notes” to students when I see something praiseworthy, and students have written Tootle Notes to each other. They love giving and receiving Tootle Notes.
In these final Tootle Notes I wrote things such as:
Writing these notes reminded me about the positive qualities of my students and the progress they made this year. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how far they’ve come.
When I was done, I had a sea of Tootle Notes and I couldn’t wait to share them with my students!
When I got to school, I gathered the kids on the carpet for a special “Tootle Time.”
One by one, the students sat in our special chair. I read their Tootle Notes aloud before giving them the actual notes to keep.
There is something powerful about hearing specific praise, not just reading it.
Seeing my students’ faces light up with smiles was wonderful, but what touched my heart the most was that they clapped loudly after each Tootle Note was read.
They cheered for their friends.
They celebrated each others’ successes.
They were proud of one another.
And I was proud to be their teacher.
One thing you may not know about the teaching profession is that we are often students ourselves. Throughout the year, we attend countless hours of professional development, trainings, and classes.
This year, many of our teacher in-service days have been focused on writing instruction. I’ve enjoyed implementing some of the new strategies into my classroom, and it’s been so nice to see my students excited about writing. One of my students recently shared, “I am special because I’m a good writer.” Identifying himself as a writer was such an encouragement to me because, as a kid, I never saw myself as a writer.
At times, I still struggle calling myself a writer. In fact, at our one of recent trainings, it came up that I’m a blogger. Our instructor said, “Oh, so you’re a writer.” I was so hesitant and said, “I guess so.” Others in the room spoke up and said, “Yes, she’s a writer.”
Sometimes we need others to help us see the gifts we have.
Words of encouragement can turn doubts into confidence.
Why have I been hesitant to call myself a writer? A few weeks ago, I was looking through some childhood scrapbooks, and I came across a paper that was folded. I opened it up and saw the results of my 9th grade proficiency tests. Back then, these were the tests you had to pass in order to graduate. The first thing I saw on the paper was that I had failed the writing portion of the proficiency test. Yep. I failed.
For an overachieving, straight-A student, this was not only shocking at the time, but it was embarrassing. It also caused me to doubt myself as a writer.
But now, looking back at that failing test grade, I laugh. I laugh because something I failed at is now one of my strengths. Ironic, isn’t it?
I wish I could go back and tell my 9th grade self:
That failing score may have shaken my confidence, but I kept writing anyways. I’m so thankful I did, because I would later discover that writing gave me a safe place to express my thoughts.
Writing helped me regain my voice, and it would also help me encourage others to use their voices.
Hearing my students call themselves writers makes me smile. After all these years, I can finally say, “I’m a writer too.”
How has writing impacted my life? Check out these blogs:
Pages of Love
A Blog About Blogging
The Reasons I Write
At the beginning of 2016, I started this blog because I felt led to share more of my story with others. As an introvert, sharing personal information about myself does not come naturally to me, but God continued to prompt me to write and share. So I did.
Forty-three blogs later, I've come to the end of 2016, and I realized something pretty amazing. My hope and prayer has always been that God would use these blogs to encourage others, and while that may have happened, He has actually used these blogs to encourage me.
Re-reading my blogs has reminded me that I can trust God in the present and with my future, because He has always been faithful and loving in the past.
I have been reminded that joy and pain can co-exist and that we weren’t meant to experience either alone.
Looking back, here are my top 10 (most read) blogs of 2016. I hope they encourage you, and I look forward to writing more in 2017.
As a kid, I remember feeling excited, but also a little anxious to start each school year. I was excited to go shopping for new clothes and school supplies, but I was anxious about meeting my new teacher(s) and classmates.
Now that I’m a teacher, the start of a new school year brings these same emotions, but for different reasons. I still get excited shopping for school supplies – especially when the Target dollar bins are full of school stuff – but what I’m most excited about is meeting my new group of students. This is also the part that makes me feel anxious. Why?
Teaching is so much more than helping kids reach their academic goals. It’s also helping them learn how to treat others with love and respect. It’s helping them understand that they are loved and have something unique to offer the world. Teaching is a challenge and a huge responsibility, but it’s also an incredible privilege and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Most teachers will tell you they feel anxious and overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year, and that is because we care so much. We understand the importance of our job and want to do everything we can to make sure our students have an enjoyable and successful year. This is why we are willing to spend days/weeks getting our classrooms ready and hours planning lessons each week. It’s also why we continue to think about our students even after the dismissal bell rings.
Some people may be surprised to learn that I don’t have any control over who gets placed in my class, and I honestly prefer it that way. When I receive my class list, I get excited, as I believe that each student was placed in my class for a reason. God chose me to be their teacher. These are the kids that I get to invest in and love. Having that perspective has changed the way I approach each day, and it encourages me on those really challenging days.
Since I’m a public school teacher, I can’t pray with my students at school, but I can still pray for them. Once I have a class list, I start praying for them by name. Driving to work each day I typically pray, “God, help me to be the teacher my students need today.” It’s a simple prayer, but it has proven to be effective. I also rely on help and insight from my incredible co-workers. They help me be a better teacher.
Another school year is about to begin. A new group of students will walk through the door and it will no longer be my classroom, but our classroom. I’m so thankful that I was chosen to share it with them.
“What I love most about my classroom is who I share it with.” ~ Anonymous
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.