Earlier this week I wrote part one of "Why I Teach"...part one is the beginning of my journey...but as with all good journeys...it doesn't stop there.
Soon after graduation I took my first job teaching kindergarten...for 2 year I loved on and taught those kindergarten babies with all I had. I laughed and celebrated with my students and their families, but I also cried and mourned with a family in the loss of their precious little boy. I learned very quickly that yes, education is what takes place in the classroom, but it is strengthened by the relationships you build outside. Families are more supportive, and students are more excited when they see that you are invested in them.
Upon the birth of my first child I took time away from teaching...but not time away from public schools and education. I believe in and always have believed in public schools and TEACHERS!! I served on public school committees and was involved with various activities supporting teachers. Once my oldest started school I became involved in PTA...because education is about more than what happens in the classroom it is about the relationships we build. I am so blessed to have had these opportunities to be involved in education and support educators. In these activities I observed success as teachers were invested in students and families...and as parents became invested in the educational process.
During this time I also had the great privilege of being a Girl Scout leader to an amazing group of girls. Yet another opportunity to build community and relationships...the opportunity to watch as these young girls grew into young women. One of my most treasured memories was when one of their teachers spoke of our girls commitment to one-another. Our girls were a very diverse group we had the athletes, the academically gifted, the artistic...but somehow they learned to celebrated those differences...and stood up for each other. What a blessing to teach and lead these girls...but most of all to learn about commitment and relationships from them.
Two years ago I went back to classroom teaching with the knowledge and deep belief that education is about more that what happens in a classroom...education at it's best is built on relationships and community. I continue to celebrate with parents and students...and sometimes even cry. Many of my 3rd graders came from broken homes, or have one or more parents in jail...for these students (really all students) education can not take place unless they feel a sense of community and positive relationship.
This summer a group of teachers from my school visited the park in the apartment complex where many of our students live...we told stories, made crafts, ate hot dogs. We met out kiddos in their community...in the summer...when we didn't have to...and they were so excited...so happy! I had the opportunity to meat parents that I had never met before, because some of these parents don't come to the school. Me...I was blessed beyond measure to be with my students in their own environment to watch them, to play with them...to build community and relationship.
I teach because I believe in children and families. I believe that community and relationships can have a positive effect on education and vice versa. I will continue to be involved not only in the classroom, but in PTA and other community organizations...because to more effectively reach students...I must reach their families...we must be invested in one another...I guess that is the very definition of community!