Posted by: misswords81 | March 29, 2009

Teaching What I Love

I have the privilege of educating young minds on the joys of the English language. Or at least, that was what I thought I would be doing when I signed up for the Alternative Certification program at the University of Louisville. I knew it was going to be hard, because each semester I would be taking one to two classes while experiencing the joys of my first year of teaching… in an urban school district…

What I didn’t realize is that my job as a teacher would be so… complicated. Here’s one thing that I know for sure as my first year of teaching comes hurtling to a brutal close:

I am going to burn out if I stay in the classroom.

Let’s just take a look at the first year (which wasn’t complete due to my hip injury): I ended up at one of the roughest middle schools in the district. Our schedules were not set until the second six week term due the fact that the administration could not get the reading test scores together of all the sixth graders. I came to the brutal realization that I was more of a babysitter than a teacher, but there was only so much I could do when children lived in foster homes, with alcoholic or drug addicted parents or on the run. I learned that the cops will definitely come to your classroom to apprehend one of your students in the middle of your best lesson ever. I learned that a food fight that occurs at breakfast will ruin the rest of your day. I learned that you have to have two lessons planned: one that you would like to teach and one that you can. I learned that children these days don’t respect an adult anymore and often times with good reason. I have learned that it is okay to let a student run away from you if you know their name (wish I learned that before I broke my hip). I have cried more this year than I have since my grandfather died seven years ago and often times because one of my students have suffered a hurt that will change their lives forever.

I care too much.

The most important thing that I have learned is that my job isn’t to teach sixth graders how to diagram a sentence or edit a personal narrative. That is the job of high school advanced placement teachers and college professors. No, my job is to teach my students about life and get them ready to make decisions that will chart the rest of their lives. In order to do this, I must allow them into my heart and let them teach me.

This is why I will burn out.

So under the title of language arts teacher, I have become a superhero to these kids who have met the biggest words nerd they may ever meet in their lives and they won’t remember that I taught them about the techniques of persuasion by using commercials on Youtube. They’ll remember their really tall, wheelchair bound sixth grade mama who made them feel like they could do whatever they want.

And in the end, that’s more important.


  1. Jennifer, you made me cry. And enormously proud of knowing you.

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