Teaching is certainly a work of heart.  As an educator, my heart was always a factor in each moment of my teaching day.  As children walk through your door, you get a sense of urgency from some of them.  What happened to them at home that morning or on the way to school?  And today, teachers are actually remotely in their children’s homes. Oftentimes, teachers become the parent and take on the responsibility of making it all better.  What an impossible task and certainly one that requires exercising ones sensitive and vulnerable heart. The exhaustion at the end of my days wasn’t from the classroom lessons but from anticipating their emotional reactions to what they believed difficult or not in their realm of understanding.   What makes it harder for teachers to sustain their energy and integrity?  Let’s take a step out of the classroom.

Was I Prepared As An Education Student for the Real Challenges?

Did college prepare me for the real challenges I was to face as a student teacher? The answer is unequivocally, “No”. I had all the prerequisite courses when I walked into my classroom.  However, I only got an inkling of what some of my challenges may be in student teaching.  But remember,  the regular teacher had my back.  However, I was raring to go with my degree in both elementary and special education.

As a new teacher I was in downtown Philadelphia, I was given a special education class in South Philly.  My first day I learned that this classroom hadn’t had a teacher all last year and spent the year rolling up paper and filling the room.  I kid you not.  I hesitantly walked into this classroom when I smell this awful odor.  My new little darlings say to me, “Oh, Miss Bluestone, no worries they just peeing on them radiators again.  And so it began.

Whatever I learned at Boston University had no relevance whatsoever.  Being naive and very positive, I marched on and had a great experience with so many hilarious stories that I only wish I had written down.  I pulled out my creative nature, my sense of humor and that steel back that got me through my father’s disastrous motel venture.  Those South Philly kids and I learned from each other.  They became a classroom and my heart had everything to do with that not my college degree.  Why did I choose teaching?

Why Did I Choose Teaching?

I did understand the cultural beliefs about the teaching profession.  It was not held in the highest of esteem.  It was a smart girls profession back when.  Men are still an enigma in the early childhood and elementary scenarios.  The money isn’t great and everyone believes that your heart and your preparation are left at the door as you leave.  The quote I hate is that “If you can’t do, teach”.   However, I loved kids.  As a high school student, I volunteered at the Children’s Seashore Home for children with medical and neurological disabilities.  I went 3 times a week.

They gave me a sense of myself so in need of development.  I was good enough for them and they gave me more than I gave.  I didn’t care what the beliefs were and my parents agreed hoping that I would get two degrees, MRS and a BS.  The first one much more important.  The good teachers use their heart and their souls and meet their challenges head on.

A Very Wise Teacher Wrote:  Haim Ginott

I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.

A teacher at a local preschool was kind enough to share this with me. It struck me as one of the truest statements I have ever read. His honesty was riveting. His use of strong language was nothing less than powerful. As an educator for over 45 years, I believe that this happens every day in every classroom around the world. I venture to say that not many teachers hold themselves to this standard or this level of determination of how much an effect that they have on a child’s life.

Thank you to all the teachers that bring their hearts to their classrooms especially during this difficult time.  Respect is your middle name!

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