"You're not like Mrs. Ebbell," she says to me, a sweet expression on her face to match the kind thought.
I've had my Mrs. Ebbell moments, I think to myself. But on the whole, overall- I am thankful they don't think I am like Bradley Chalkers' teacher in the book There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom.
Mrs. Ebbell is openly unkind to Bradley. She doesn't defend him when the other children are mean to him. She expects him to be awful and to fail. She gives him a horrible reputation to live up to, which he does for the longest time. It is Carla, the counselor, who shows Bradley he isn't a monster, that he is a good person who can make better choices.
Later that morning, I am handed a piece of paper by another lovely student who is always listening, always putting forth effort, always striving to help. Her note said she wished I could be her teacher forever and on the back, she drew my water bottle.
I recently purchased a huge water bottle that holds 128 ounces. It has markings with words of encouragement, as seen in the picture she drew above. It got me thinking about how students notice everything about us- what we wear, what we eat and drink, the stories we share, our patience levels, our love for them. We really can't hide who we are as teachers- it comes shining through all our actions. The books we chose to read- or not read. The way we start the day together. The way we end the day together. Kids know. They know if you really care or if you don't. They know if you enjoy learning or are just going through the motions of a lesson.
So our challenge, then, is to bring the best of ourselves to our work- work that is often exhausting emotionally and physically. Work that there isn't enough time to do. On days when we are personally lost, or frustrated or sad or tired- we still have to try to bring our best self to our students because they are watching us and what we say and do matters.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski