Yesterday was one of the tough days for me — we’ve all had them — when students seemed to push back on every choice I made, I felt boxed into a lesson I didn’t love, frustration mounted for all of us, my patience ebbed, and pride flowed. The whole endeavor of teaching and learning seemed to hang by a slender thread.
But that thread must be woven of something other-worldly — of unicorn hair and phoenix feathers — because it finds a way to hold every time. That thread tugs, eventually, at the best of who I am and how I want to be. It makes me find a better way.
And that’s how I’ve come to look at, and love, teaching. It’s not easy, ever. Not when the world at large and powers-that-be seem distant and tone deaf to what children and schools need from society. Not when there isn’t close to enough time to plan and prepare to teach as I’d want to ideally. But if I accept that those tensions are there to stay, I can find a way to work through them. And that’s what I’ve decided to do.
I love teaching because the obstacle of those tensions (and others) are an opportunity for me to grow my grace. Constrictions from curriculum, policy, and testing implore me to scheme for ways to still give kids choice and creativity as they learn. Complaints from students can be seen, as Dylan Wiliam says, as invitations to strengthen relationships, as invitations to listen and lean in to difficult conversations. And both are opportunities for me to grow — in prioritizing and being creative, in emotional intelligence, in empathy, in being vulnerable enough to seek feedback.
This Is Where I’m Going To Make A Difference
I love teaching because I get to do this work alongside some of the most giving and dedicated people on the planet. My school community recently celebrated the life of a colleague who gave 46 years of compassion and kindness to students benefiting from special education. We all know someone like that, someone who has just made a decision to plant their flag and say, “this is where I’m going to make a difference. One kid, one heart, one human at a time.”
In classrooms — just like ours — across the world, a teacher stays late to give a little extra feedback to move a student forward. Another sits listening to a child in need. Another runs through red tape to make an opportunity come to life. We know this. We’re not in this alone. We’re in this with an army of agents of grace and love and possibility.
I love teaching because of an idea put in my mind by Marian Wright Edelman in Stand For Children: “That when God wants an important thing done in the world, or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He doesn’t release thunderbolts or stir up earthquakes. God simply has a tiny baby born, perhaps of a very humble home, perhaps of a very humble mother. And she puts it in the baby’s mind, and then — God waits. The great events of this world are not battles and elections and earthquakes and thunderbolts. The great events are babies.” And those babies come to pass through our classrooms — yours and mine. And if we consider the preciousness and possibility of their lives, that is an incredible honor and responsibility.
I love teaching because my tough yesterday was still with me this morning. And I got up and got to work at getting better, so those students could get better. And I know thousands of other teachers did the same thing, too.
It’s from this place, with a shared desire to shine a light on all that is positive about teaching, that WeLoveTeaching.org was born. Join us this week as we celebrate our profession and, once again, share with the world why we #LoveTeaching.
Sean McComb teaches English at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in the Baltimore County Public Schools System. Sean also supports the development of teaching and learning for Baltimore County’s STAT Initiative. He is affiliated with the Maryland Writing Project, NCTE, Learning Forward, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and ISTE. Sean is the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and a Teaching Channel Laureate. Connect with Sean on Twitter: @Mr_McComb.