What I wish my students knew…

It has been a few weeks since my last post. Needless to say, it has been hectic! Looking at the calendar today, I realized there are only eight school days until Spring Break. On one hand, I cannot wait! On the other, I am slightly sad this time of year as my 8th grade students will be moving on to high school in about 12 weeks.

This time of year I start reflecting on the past six months with my students and wonder, “Was I good enough?”. I look back on all the lessons, activities, testing, and the classroom vibe. I wonder (and worry) if I was the kind of teacher my students needed this year. I think about the kids from “good homes” and those who have a lot lacking in their lives outside of school.

I think about the relationships I have been able to foster as well as the students who still keep me at arms length. I rejoice and smile thinking about the students and parents who tell me often that I have made such a positive difference in their lives. I can’t help but feel sad as I think about the students who I have not been able. There are many things that run through my mind and tug at my heart. These are the things I wish my students knew.

I wish my students knew I was not always a stellar student. I was always a solid B student but was capable of straight A’s. I even got lazy at times (shocking I know) and rounded up a C or two. Now as an adult, I wish I had focused more and worked harder for those straight A’s. I hope they do not have the same regret.

I wish my students knew I have experienced how wonderful and harsh the world can be. I once was a teenager who was pretty but a little “fluffy” around the middle. I know what it’s like to feel insecure, bullied, bored, held back by adults, misunderstood, unappreciated, lonely, scared, and excited about everything. I have also worked in the “real world” at various levels of jobs. Not all were fun and exciting. Not all paid well. Oh, and my bosses didn’t care about my personal life. They only expected me to show up every day, on time, and give 200%. If I didn’t or wouldn’t, they’d find someone else who would.

I wish my students knew that I do not like to deliver bad news to them or their parents. I don’t like calling or emailing parents about low grades and poor behavior. In fact, I HATE it. I try to email out positive feedback, but it’s not easy. Teens are so challenging at times and trying to find their way. Teens don’t often make good choices. Some struggle academically. It’s my job to keep students AND their parents informed on progress. I promise, I am not trying to be a tattle – tale. Really, it’s true.

I wish my students knew how much of MY personal family time I dedicate to THEIR education. Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not live at school. Hard to believe, I know. Many of my colleagues and I do, however, spend countless hours at home ignoring our families to plan, prep, and grade. We miss many hours of family fun, not to mention precious hours of sleep, to email parents, update websites, tweet out reminders, and scour endless resources for engaging, “cool” activities. The students we do this for rarely notice, and our families who we have rare moments of fun with, notice every day.

I wish my students knew how much I truly care about them. I wish my students knew how much I worry about their well-being. It is so heartbreaking to learn about one of my students having to face a broken home, lack of basic necessities, violence, drugs, or whatever cross they must bear and care with them. I think constantly about whether my students are loved, warm, safe, and feed. I pray for positive, encouraging role models in their lives. I hope I am one of those. I am also very thankful to the families of students who are supportive, encouraging, and involved.

I wish my students knew that education is truly the way to fulfill their dreams. Regardless of whether my students go to college, join the military, or enter the workforce after high school, education will be the skeleton key that opens all these doors. I want my students to dream big, work hard, live well.

I wish my students knew that the decisions they make today will indeed follow them to high school and beyond. Every choice has a consequence, good or bad. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is so hard to get my students to buy in to the thought that what they do with their “todays” directly impacts their “tomorrows”. I hope they make thoughtful, well-informed decisions that will have a positive impact on their lives. Regrets are difficult crosses to carry. I want them to have the smallest, fewest regrets as possible.

I wish my students knew that I hope they reach their full potential. When I look at my students, I see a blank canvas just waiting to be filled. I see funny, bright, loving, children struggling to navigate the teen years and come out better on the other side. I see unwelcome behaviors as a reaction to how they perceive their world. I see tomorrow’s leaders, inventors, and teachers. The future is as wide and bright as their young eyes. I hope they embrace every opportunity to learn, create, and make our world a better place for all.

I wish my students knew that I will truly miss them. I hope my students knew that I hope they remember me as a positive influence. I spend 9 months with these kids who become MY children. I will think about them often, the good and the bad. I will wonder how high school is going. I will wonder about their well-being. Most of all, I will miss seeing the final years of the journey toward adulthood. The best part I guess is that I can think about their time with me, dream about what they might have become, and smile.

After all, every school year is a new year to make a difference. Every student is a blank canvas. Every heart is one to be won over. Best of all, sometimes they DO come back to visit and share their journey, give me a hug and words of appreciation. That is the ultimate reward and what keeps me returning year after year.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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