I am the world’s biggest cry baby, always have been and always will be =’( I cry in movies, I cry when I laugh too hard and there is no doubt in my mind that I will cry on my wedding day. However, it never occurred to me until last Friday that yes, I will also cry as a teacher. It was ironic that Dr. Staples mentioned during our meeting that sometimes all you can do as a teacher is cry because this is a lesson that I had learned in the classroom only a couple hours before.
I learned throughout my day on Friday that there are several reasons why teachers would cry. I feel that the most common causes of crying teachers are proud moments/accomplishments, frustration/stress and sadness.
I was almost moved to tears when I overheard two students talking to each other about their mothers. My fifth grade students, Dylan and Taiyana were able to relate to and comfort each other about their mothers. Dylan, has not seen his Mother, whom he does not live with, for four weeks and was talking about how much he misses her. Taiyana, who is the social butterfly of the class and always has a smile on her face, has a Mother who is sick and dying. These students both always act cheerful and happy, so it was difficult for me to hear the things they are going through. Many of the students often call their teachers by the name of mom. For Taiyana, Dylan and students like them, this can be comforting and help them fulfill their longing for the love of a mother. Even when a teacher does not know what is going on in the lives of their students, it is important to be understanding to them. Teachers also need to be sure to get to know their students and learn as much about them as they can. As a teacher I want to be someone that my students know they can turn to if they are struggling with something and need a mentor or someone to talk to.
I am embarrassed to say it, but I have already cried during the Philly Urban Seminar. I was having an awesome Friday, the perfect ending to a great first week. When I accompanied my fifth grade class to science, my emotions went on a roller coaster. The class was stressed because their teacher, Ms. Krupit, told them that they only had 15 minutes to finish up a project that most of them had forgotten at home. As I circled the class I saw many of them restarting their projects and attempting to finish in only a couple minutes. ‘I was surprised to see that Deshawn, one of the trouble makers in the class had a beautiful project in front of him.’ <— I admit, this was labeling Deshawn and I have learned the negative effects that this can have on teaching. My label on Deshawn stereotyped him as not caring about this project and I realize now how dangerous these labels are. I was so proud of him as he excitedly explained his project to me and showed me what he learned. As he walked to the back of the room to turn his project in, the teacher informed the class that time was up and all projects turned in were now late. The look on Deshawn’s face when his project was rejected was heartbreaking. When I took the project to Ms. Krupit to explain that he was finished she criticized it in front of the entire class and told him that she would not accept it until he edited it. I was so frustrated that she would embarrass him for his hard work in front of everyone.
Throughout the rest of the period things did not get much better. One of the girls, named Shania, was scolded by Ms. Krupit for not turning in her project. Although I know the teacher had the intention of getting Shania to do her work on time in the future, this discipline had a negative effect. Shania was near tears when she approached me begging me to help her talk to Ms. Krupit so that she did not have to confront her alone. She was too scared to simply ask the teacher for a new paper about the project so that she could complete it. Instilling fear in your students is not a good way to create a comfortable learning environment. Shania was one student that I really had a hard time connecting with before this incident and I had really been trying to develop a relationship with her. When I was able to provide her with the comfort and guidance that she was not receiving from Ms. Krupit, a bond was formed.
The class was really getting out of hand and rather than trying to control the group, Ms. Krupit started to target an individual student. She started yelling at a girl named Baronna for talking and being out of her seat, which was something that many students in the class were also guilty of at this time. Baronna did not think this was fair or understand why she was the only student who got in trouble. She responded to this by returning to her desk, putting all of her science papers away and refusing to work for the rest of the period. Once again, this teacher’s scolding had the opposite effect, causing a student to shut down and become unmotivated. When I tried to talk to Baronna I realized that she was crying because she was embarrassed and upset by this teacher.
At this point in the class my heart was breaking. I felt so sad for these students and wanted to take control of the class and give all of them the love and attention that they were trying so desperately to earn. Some were seeking this attention by being misbehaved and others like Deshawn by doing their work, yet none were getting any positive attention from Ms. Krupit. I tried to put myself in their teacher’s shoes and be more understanding. She was definitely exhausted, frustrated and sick of trying to get the students to turn in their projects; however, I don’t think that this justifies her actions. She uses a strict teaching style and although some days I have seen this work and keep the classroom under control, today was not one of those days. This made me realize that I will definitely need to find a balance between being nice and strict. I could not handle seeing anymore of the students sad and it was quickly making me upset and wanting to cry with them.
Then the emotions in the classroom took a complete turn around and things rapidly got better. First, the teacher changed her mind about Deshawn’s project and told him that although it could be better she felt that he was deserving of a 95. His eyes lit up and he smiled at me from across the room. I look forward to having even more satisfying and proud moments like the one that I had with Deshawn when I become a teacher. After this, Ms. Krupit turned to me and thanked me for being the best student teacher that she has ever had. She also praised a trouble maker named Christian and told me that the work he did during class was the best she has ever seen him do. I was so overwhelmed as the tears of sadness that I was trying to hold back turned to tears of happiness and pride.
I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I love being around kids and enjoy helping them learn new things. The passion that I felt for these students and for urban education in science on Friday made me cry. I left room 122 knowing that this urban setting is where I belong. I want to use my passion for teaching and love of students in a place where I can leave the biggest impact. I want to take on the challenges of urban education and I look forward to building relationships with students who need a caring and loving mentor in their life. In a large group meeting, Mr. Earl Carter discussed the impact that teachers can have on the lives of students. He described the role of teachers as teaching the whole child including physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs. Teachers need to be committed to meeting the needs of their students and showing them love.
The feelings that I had in science class were so strong and overwhelming to me; sadness, pride, happiness, frustration, exhaustion, discouragement. These are all emotions that are commonly felt as a teacher. The proud moments in teaching, when you see the love of learning in a child and the impact that you are having on their life, make the difficult moments in teaching, when you feel like giving up, completely worth it. I learned on Friday that I need to be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions when dealing with children and that sometimes, all you can do is cry.
There is a difference between my tears from last Friday and this Friday. Last Friday, my crying was a mixture of my sadness for my students and their difficult lives along with my rapidly growing passion for teaching. This Friday, my tears will be for a different reason, I will cry because this course is over and I will not ever see these students again. In 8 short days we built relationships in room 114, learning together and from each other. I will take away more than just pictures from this experience as these students have reinforced the lessons I have learned throughout this course. I have learned the importance of flexibility, classroom management, good communication and being understanding. The 6 good teacher qualities from What Urban Students Say About Good Teaching Qualities are a good summary of the lessons learned. Effective teachers push students, maintain order, are willing to help, explain until everyone understands, vary classroom activities and try to understand students.
I have also learned life lessons from my students. Hearing their difficult stories about their everyday life makes me realize I need to be more thankful of my awesome family and many blessings in life. I definitely take the love I have in my life, that these students desire so much, for granted. This is motivating to me, and I want to be able to share my love and blessings with these needy children. The class also taught me the importance of laughter, even when my teacher seemed stressed. Being able to laugh with your students keeps the love teachers have for education alive and helps them to make it through the difficult times.
Although the course is over, my experience in urban education is just beginning. My tears tomorrow will also be tears of joy and excitement. I cannot wait to use everything that I have learned throughout the Philadelphia Urban Seminar in a classroom of my own in a couple of years. When I walk out of room 114 tomorrow, it’s going to be so difficult to hold back my tears. I will need to try to dry up my tears and keep a smile on my face as I continue on my amazing journey towards becoming a teacher.