I have not always been an open book with my students. I use to be the teacher that was just Mrs. Smith in the classroom. The “I am the teacher, teacher!” They didn’t need to know about me. All they needed to know was that I was Mrs. Smith and they needed to know the curriculum only.
Then I changed….
I can’t tell you when I changed. I can’t tell you what made me change. Maybe it was just years of teaching. Maybe it was a student that I missed getting to know. Maybe it was losing a student to an RV fire. I can’t really pinpoint it…. I just know I changed, and definitely my change is for the better.
I am real now…..
I am now an open book with my students. When I say “Open Book” I don’t mean tell them EVERYTHING about my life, but I now find value in sharing my core, myself, the what and who that make me, well ME. I start the year with a Kahoot about Mrs. Smith. It isn’t a quiz about rules, procedures,etc. This quiz is about my favorite color, my favorite pop, how many brothers and sisters I have, etc. I let them in. I tell them when I am tired. I tell them when my patience may not be as big as usual. I tell them when I have had a rough night. I tell them when I don’t get my run in. I tell them when I am so excited about something in my life I am about to BURST!
But it doesn’t stop there, sharing is a routine…..
Every Monday morning at the start of my Reading Block we talk about our weekends. We share for 15 minutes about the great things that happened to us outside of the school walls. We talk about their basketball games, their birthday parties, their trips to Kearney to Wal-Mart for cheap, discounted Easter candy. I share when I am busy and everything I did with my family. I share when I stay home and just clean my house. I share when all I did was sleep in and do laundry.
Sometimes we share on random days one positive thing that happened to them from 3:30 to when they got to school the next morning. AND sometimes they ask me if we can share something about or nights. Something they just can’t wait to tell me. Something that makes them tick. Something that makes them happy… How could I ever say no we don’t have time to share! We always have time to share joy!
Why does that matter……
Let me tell you why! I am that teacher that always tells my students when I am going to be gone. I am that teacher that tells them who will be “me” the next day. I prepare them for what life is going to throw them, through me. I want to know if change is coming in life, so why wouldn’t I try to prepare my students. When we know things are going to be different we can prepare for that. We can change the things we need and keep the things we need the same. We can prepare!
Then sometimes change comes without warning….
When I got home from school Thursday night I got a call from my mom. She said that she had chest pains, had taken a Nitro pill, and my aunt was on her way to take her to the ER. I instantly jumped in my car and drove the 30 minutes to the hospital. They admitted her to observe her and find the source of the chest pain. I was planning on going to school the next day, as she said she didn’t need me there. As I was getting ready to leave she looked at me and said, “If it wouldn’t inconvenience you or school to much I would like it if you could be here tomorrow.” So that became my plan… to be with the one who had given so much of herself to me.
I left the hospital and traveled back home 30 minutes to pack and plan for school. I went to the school around midnight, organized my kiddos days as best I could, and left again for the hospital.
I left them without warning, because sometimes change doesn’t tell any of us that it is coming.
Fast forward 24 hours….
My mom is being released from the hospital. My family stops at Wal-Mart to pick up a few things before heading home. As I am walking around I notice one of my students with his family. I walk up and tap him on the shoulder. He turns and looks up at me with concern and says, “Where were you today? You didn’t tell us you weren’t going to be there. I missed you!” I look at him with honest eyes and say, “My mom was in the hospital and she needed me to be with her.” He looks with greater concern and says, “I missed you, but is she ok?” I tell him that she is on her way home and thank him for asking. He then says, “So you will be there Monday?” I tell him that I plan to!
Why is this significant…..
Sharing you make you real. It makes you a person to them. They grow to care for you the way you care for them. When a person in your family is hurting you hurt. When a family member succeeds you celebrate with them. When a family member is gone you miss having them around!
When a family grows together they learn so much more about life, and when that family is a classroom the learning that takes place is so much more than the academics. They learn to care about each other through your example. They learn that hurt happens. We miss each other when we aren’t around, but when you finally see each other at Wal-Mart the day gets brighter because you know all is well with the world when all is well with the family!
Make your room at school more than a room. Make it a home, where it is best when everyone in the family is there, happy, caring, growing and learning together! Let them in. Let them know you. Let them care about you beyond the whiteboard!
Because the eyes looking up at you at Wal-Mart just might be saying all the things that your heart needed to hear after a stressful 24 hours….. Life is better because you are in it!