As a teacher, there are certain expectations that society in general places on your role in the school system. You are expected to be a role model at all times and maintain your composure as well as your temper. Does that mean that you’re expected to be “stuffy”? Does it mean that you’re expected to avoid fun and laughter like the plague? I taught high school for 8 years and during that time, I had some of the most humorous and lasting experiences of my life. From Safe Grad and prom, to classroom parties, sports, and fund raisers, I made the most of my teaching experience. I chose teaching because it wasn’t a job to me; it was fun and rewarding and what I did on a daily basis impacted the lives of many. I may not appear like the typical teacher and I may not have participated in typical teacher activities, but I know I did my job well and I’ve learned as much from my students as they’ve learned from me.
Sometimes classroom activities extended beyond the curriculum creating global citizens. My students were extremely generous during fundraisers like Run for the Cure and we often had classroom contests and events to encourage giving. Last year, I offered to dress like a man for one full day, including clothes, hair, face, and mannerisms if my students raised $1000 during the week. As you can see, they easily met their goal. I happily went to work as Mr. Leslie and held my head up high while eating at McDonalds for lunch that day.
Upping the stakes, I offered to add permanent, hot pink color to my hair if they reached $2000 the following week. Once again, they graciously meet their goal and stood proud when I walked into the classroom with permanent pink hair for over a month.
Interacting with the students this way and sharing in their success creating a lasting relationship that extended outside of our one hour together in the classroom. We learned together; we interacted together; and we achieved together. We created a respectful environment similar to a democracy. Rather than being their dictator, I allowed them to determine the rules together within the framework of the curriculum.
By the end of October, we were a family and when my birthday arrived, my family had a beautiful, thoughtful party for me. They gave up their lunch to transform my classroom into a Birthday retreat. We celebrated and enjoyed treats and I was overwhelmed by the relationship that we’d build. They chipped in to buy small, thoughtful gifts that only a true family would know to buy. Each present was special and uniquely created or purchased for me. I fought back tears, but it was a proud day to be a teacher.
Outside of the classroom, I tried to contribute to extra-curricular activities as frequently as possible. I assisted with numerous sports over the years such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, dragon boat racing, and field hockey. I was a regular chaperon at school dances and I anxiously awaited prom and safe grad.
Before we knew it, prom was upon us and my family was leaving the nest. We’d become so attuned to each other, that several of us actually matched in our attire.
Although I love watching them appear like princes and princesses as they walk around the gym for their special moment, it is safe grad that brings the biggest smile to my face every year. With activities like blow-up games, mechanical bulls, and clown-like bicycles, even the teachers let go and enjoy themselves. It’s a time where you can challenge students on the blow-up football field or ride around on a tricycle and receive praise from the administration for participating. Who could pass up an opportunity like that? As an English teacher, I constantly expect my students to perform before an audience. The safe grad entertainment was a switch in roles as the teachers created an act that was displayed for the entire graduating student body. Saying we had an 80s theme doesn’t quite do it justice without including a picture. My last full year teaching was life changing. If you solely determine student success on test and exam achievement, my students were successful. They had excelled within the curriculum and standardized test scores were at an all time high. Although that was a beautiful part of their achievement, it was the community that we had created that truly displayed their success. None of us will forget the family that we became in that tiny classroom.