Teaching is Beyond the Classroom

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.

We had our ups and downs on the field but the players always had a smile on their faces. Not even torrential-like rains could bring our spirits down.  

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.

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86 thoughts on “Teaching is Beyond the Classroom

    • It’s unfortunate that teachers need to maintain a distance from their students because of disgusting cases like your example. I’m proud to say that I’m a teacher and I’m confident in my success with teaching. It is a powerful and rewarding career and I’ll return as soon as my daughter is school age.

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate your support,

      Lesley

      Like

  1. You’re the kind of teacher I admired and remember, and the one I strive to be! Have had a long week in the classroom, but am now reminded of the privileged job I have!

    Like

  2. You seem to be what I call a “true” teacher! It goes not only beyond the classroom, but also beyond curriculum and prepared academic lessons! I’m glad those kids had a chance to have a teacher like you in their lives! Keep up the great job! You deserve to be called a Teacher!

    Like

  3. You are so obviously an excellent teacher. Why did you leave after only eight years?
    We have a journalism teacher here in Sedona, Arizona who is very much like you. She has been
    Teacher of the Year over and over and over. We’re very proud of her.

    Like

    • My husband and I were living in New Brunswick, Canada and that’s where I was teaching. One evening, I said, “If we could live anywhere in the world, where would you want to live?” After talking about it for less than a week, we decided on southern California. My husband applied for a job here and was offered the position two days later. That was all it took! We sold our house and almost everything in it. I resigned from my teaching position and we drove across the continent to start our new life in California. Currently, I don’t have a green card so I can’t teach in the US, but at 9 months pregnant that’s not the worst thing that could happen :) I’m sure when my daughter is old enough, I’ll return to teaching. For now, I’ll focus on my family and enjoying the beautiful life that we are creating here.
      :)

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  4. Maybe if i had had a teacher or ten like you, school would have been more about the classroom and less about hanging out by the canal (my school was downtown Ottawa, Lisgar, right beside the Rideau Canal) ! You seem to be the real deal, a caring and interesting character with a zest for and a love of life, and the students you teach! Lucky kids!

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    • Thank you, but I’m the lucky one! I’ve learned so much from my students and I’ll remember each one of them.

      Hopefully, when my daughter is older, I’ll return to the classroom. With her arrival in less than a month, she will remain my sole focus for years to come.
      :)

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  5. That is such a phenomenal story. Our country is in dire need of thousands upon thousands of educators like you. So inspirational.

    If you don’t mind, why did you give up teaching?

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    • I actually just answered that question from another reader… “My husband and I were living in New Brunswick, Canada and that’s where I was teaching. One evening, I said, “If we could live anywhere in the world, where would you want to live?” After talking about it for less than a week, we decided on southern California. My husband applied for a job here and was offered the position two days later. That was all it took! We sold our house and almost everything in it. I resigned from my teaching position and we drove across the continent to start our new life in California. Currently, I don’t have a green card so I can’t teach in the US, but at 9 months pregnant that’s not the worst thing that could happen I’m sure when my daughter is old enough, I’ll return to teaching. For now, I’ll focus on my family and enjoying the beautiful life that we are creating here.”
      :)

      Like

  6. As a retired teacher, I can identify with this story. I’ve always believed that if you didn’t love working with kids, you should find a different job. I had mostly good teachers in my own school years, and am grateful for what they’ve done for me. It was with this modeling in mind that I tried to give something back when I was teaching.
    I see that you feel the same way. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Like

  7. This is a wonderful post, and you touch on so many of the intangibles that make a student’s life in school memorable–those special bonds they form with perhaps a few teachers throughout the years are the things that are remembered well into adulthood. I truly appreciate hearing about from the teacher’s perspective, and as I look back at my school years, it feels good to know that those times share with my favorite teachers had special meaning on their end, as well.

    Hap Aziz

    Like

  8. I love your zeal for life, whether skydiving, zip-lining, camping, etc. It’s no wonder you had such fun teaching! The kids who had you for a teacher were so fortunate! It’s just too bad more teachers aren’t like you… Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I guess I’m just echoing what others have posted, but you sound like an excellent teacher. I interview teachers for my job, and for the excellent ones like you, it’s a calling. Maybe more of an addiction ; ). I’d be willing to bet you’ll be back in the classroom when your daughter is older–and there will be more lucky students out there.

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  10. This is such an inspiring post! And kudos to you for making a difference in the lives of those kids. I was a teacher as well and a private tutor for years and it is one of the most challenging tasks in the world to serve others! Keep up the good work!

    Like

  11. Thanks for the reblog! I appreciate the support.

    Although teaching can be challenging, it is the most rewarding career. If you’re hesitant to agree with me right now, I’ll check back again during Spring Break ;)

    Have a great weekend,

    Lesley

    Like

  12. You have done a couple of things that are signs of a great teacher; 1) going above and beyond and caring about your students beyond just classroom learning, and 2) you personally learning and growing from spending time with your students and being open to the lessons they offer you. Those are the types of teachers who leave a lasting mark (good rather than bad) on young people. Sounds like you are about to have new person in your life to teach and learn from though! Very exciting!

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  13. I love that now… almost 10 years removed from the classroom… I STILL get former students who contact me… because we both learned, we both grew, and we both discovered why education can be SO cool!

    Now living in Europe – where teachers are complaining of class sizes of 25 to 1… I wonder… what the heck are we doing in the US!

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  14. I love this! To consider the impact you left on each of your students; reflecting their value as an individual and as an important part of a family or community. Yes, global citizens, but that starts locally, which was your classroom. If only more kids could be so fortunate to have someone like you as their teacher. Thanks for sharing a story that is truly inspirational.

    Like

  15. Hola Lesley, How’s your Spanish? Ive been reading your blogs and like “your kind of talk.” Come give us a hand here in Peru. Teachers have nothing else to do during their lengthy vacation…. except continuing ed to keep their certification, cleaning and preparing their classroom for the next group of kids, buying materials out-of-pocket that the schools cant afford …. need I go on? I know education in the states has really taken a down-turn and that shows little hope of improving any time soon. BUT … Education here in Peru (like many developing countries) has never been a priority of the government for the majority of the people here who live at or below the poverty level. And as we all know EDUCATION is the ticket to a better quality of life. Thank you for what you do and for your support. Help us get the word out about Teach a Teacher check us out on FB. with my appreciation mac

    Like

  16. I am sniffing away tears of sentiment and joy at this wonderful post, where you opened your hear to us about your teaching year. You WERE really a very special teacher, you know! Bless you always, Lesley!

    Like

  17. I worked in the public school system for 30 years…as an assistant to special needs children…middle school age…I love hearing of your experiences…”I remember”…and still hunger for those times…”at times”…What memories teachers have and the memories they leave with their kids if you are like the teacher I’m reading about…best to you and your little family in the making…thanks for sharing so much of your life…~ mkg

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  18. Hi, soon-to-be-mom, and teacher of all sorts of fun things:
    another beautiful post.

    BTW, through this blog, you realize you are STILL teaching? Even old people like me?

    I almost envy your forthcoming child, having a mom like you. May the Creator of us all bless your family with love and much happiness.

    Like

  19. Leslie, I dare say, you will be that one great teacher that stands out in your student’s minds as they go on with their lives. I think all of us have those one or two ‘stand out’ teachers that we think back on, often and with love.

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  20. Great post!

    You seem to be an awesome teacher and I admire the way you talk about involving the students into the rules within the curriculum….

    I have barely started teaching a couple of months ago, and actually, I am starting from scratch, with little experience but a LOT of motivation and willingness to learn and learn some more.
    Fortunately for me I teach a subject I know well; French, which I teach as a foreign language.
    This I believe, makes the whole teaching experience slightly different as well, I work withing schools but as a sole trader.

    I do feel like I miss a lot on the How to do’s in the classroom…..each lesson is different, and from one class to the other the children’s response is different (even though I can be teaching with the exact same content/materiel and level).

    I also, lack in Classroom management and WHERE is the limit of precisely what you were talking about “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.”

    I am actually “desperate” to find ways to have this interaction between us, and to not just “be that person that teaches us for an hour”.
    I remember while going to school how certain teachers had such an impact on me while others (most of them, sadly to say) helped me want to stay away from whatever I was learning….
    Instead, I would like to “leave a Great memory” to these kids without wanting to sound presumptuous.

    All that to say, you seem an amazing teacher and thanks for the inspirational post!

    Like

  21. What an inspiration you are. There is a need for more teachers who step outside the box to keep kids interested in staying in school, the handful that give up because they aren’t understood.

    Like

  22. Congratulations Lesley……on being a successful teacher, an endearing wife, (it’s easy to tell from your blog), on being pregnant, on not being ‘dynamic’ instead of ‘static’ in life, willing to take chances, relocate……..and still maintain a ‘busy’ website……I think I remember having energy like that…..haha My only question might be….how did you decide on southern California? Are you from there or are you Canadien? I hope you keep posting….what an extraordinary life you’ve lived so far! My best to you and your loved ones , and those to come, and all the blessings that you deserve……….tom

    Like

    • Tom, my husband and I talked about what we want the most out of life and where we could make that happen; we were living in New Brunswick, Canada at the time. I’m originally from Nova Scotia and I spend most of my life there. I always found the most happiness during summer because I loved the beach and the sun. My husband felt the same way and southern California offers that. We decided that if we could live anywhere in the world, it would be here. He applied for a position in SoCal and was offered the job. Within a month, we resigned from our current positions, sold our house and almost everything in it, and drove across the continent to our new home. Although we both miss our family dearly, we’ve never regretted our decision. We are living the life of our dreams.

      Stay tuned because we have lots of adventures just around the corner,

      Lesley

      http://www.bucketlistpublications.com/

      https://twitter.com/#!/LesleyMCarter

      Like

  23. This is awesome! I have no doubt that you made a lasting impact on so many of your students! I had a few teaches that stepped down from their ivory towers and it made such a difference in my life. Thank you for all that you do – you continue to inspire!

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  24. Great post. I can’t tell if you or your students had more fun learning and growing that year! This is how we all wish teachers were today.

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  25. Great post! As an English and History high school teacher myself, I really appreciated this, and find a lot of the philosophy I try to teach by is quite similar to your own (which I hope is a good thing). I am sure you left a long-lasting imprint and influence in the lives of these students, and I am sure they will look back on their time with you with fondness and gratitude!

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  26. Lesley, you are an awesome teacher! I enjoyed reading your post. You were very involved with your kids, which brings a personal part of you to the classroom, and helps them feel very comfortable with you. (obviously! by the photos) You really connected with your kids and it sounds like your classroom became a “community” or “family”. That’s so important to kids, because no matter whether they are Kdg. or HS…they need to feel safe and cared for. When you build that sort of “community” in your room, it helps protect kids from bullying, they relate better to each other and to you, and achievement increases.

    I taught kindergarten for nearly three decades. I loved my job (although I loved raising my kids!) and I miss parts of it very much. I always believed in building a sense of community or family in the classroom too. It made all the difference in the world.
    You have a special gift for teaching. i hope, when you are ready, that you find a school that appreciates you as much as your former students have. Thanks for sharing.

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  27. Through my years as a student I had the good fortune to be a part of classrooms with a teacher such as yourself. Although I am not in touch with them any longer, those individuals continue to inspire me. Memories created in their classrooms and during extra curricular outings stick with me.

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  28. I had the best English and Journalism teacher in high school. She was hilarious and down to earth and best of all, she made me want to learn. She made me into the journalist I am today. The day I graduated from high school I went to get my diploma after walking across the stage. No one could find it. After awhile of searching, I found my teacher with my diploma. She told me she thought if I couldn’t get it that I might never leave. She continues to be one of my best friends. She has since supported me through college and careers and I have been lucky enough to help her through her hard times. I have never been happier then when I walked across the stage at my college graduation and was able to tell her that her support had helped me achieve the goal that she helped me realize, that without her I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I have never had another teacher like her and I am so thankful that she was and remains a huge part of my life.

    Being a teacher is such an incredible thing. And while it is heartbreaking when the students leave, it is heartbreaking for them too. But it doesn’t have to be forever. While my teacher is twice my age, she has always been the most supporting friend I’ve had. Congrats on being one of those amazing people who can touch and shape the lives of young people- it means more to them then you may ever know.

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  29. This is very inspiring! I am a Grade School teacher in our country. It’s not easy especially in public schools but reading posts like this gives me so much motivation. Teaching is not just a profession, it’s a vacation we vowed to do until the end. Teachers may not be able to change the world but saving one child at a time makes a big difference. Thank you for posting this. http://sincerelymheg.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/whyteach/

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  30. Congratulation to the mama-to-be, Lesley!!! How exciting that would be. I just held my friend’s 8-month-old girl for the first time yesterday and was difficult to give her back after playing and holding her for an hour. I considered California my “home” and really miss it a lot. My daughter and her high school band is invited to perform in Anaheim in April. We are thrilled to visit. Best of luck in your move. Teaching or not, I’m certain you will continue and find your way to make the world brighter.

    Like

  31. I’ve really enjoyed reading this post and, as a teacher myself, I had a good giggle about the fund raising events: it has given me some wonderful ideas to suggest to my colleagues. We often dress up for Christmas and Red Nose Day/Comic Relief (a British charity to help disadvantaged people all over the world), so cross-gender dressing-up might appeal to some.
    Thank you for your fantastic ideas.
    I agree, it’s a good idea to build a healthy and caring relationship with the students and to have a laugh together.
    Fátima

    Like

  32. My favorite and most remembered teachers in high school and college were the ones who fostered the kind of community in and out of the classroom that you talk about here. I personally performed better academically in those classes than I did classes that focused mostly on test scores. We need more teachers like you. I hope that you do return to teaching.

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  33. Thank you for sharing a wonderful reason why anyone would be motivated to teach. Building a community as you well know is a life-changing experience itself. You have shown your small community in the classroom what can happen anywhere people of good will gather themselves. The ripple effect of this experience will reach far and wide. Good job!

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  34. The memories of a classroom of kids are always treasured, even more so when they drop by to visit and you see the young men and women they’re becoming, the type of person only hinted at when they sat in front of you at their desks. As much as I hate the end of a school year, I know deep down that my time with them is not necessarily at an end.

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  35. Teaching does have so many wonderful rewards. Recently, I received the following Facebook message from a former student (circa 1986)…I guess we’ll never know how we impact the lives of others. It looks like you might be in store for future surprises…good luck in your teaching Leslie…
    OH MY!! WHAT A HAPPY NEW YEAR IT IS!!! Mr. Stokoe!! It’s me, Michelle ….. (well now I’m Michelle …..) yes, yes THE Georgina and Michelle one. LOL Wow, I am just so happy to have found you on here:) If you choose to add me or not it is ok, I just really wanted to let you know how important you are to me! Your kindess, understanding, patience and love of teaching just was so amazing! I went through so much and without the support from you and all of ….I doubt I would have made it. I hope you and your family are happy, healthy and enjoying life. You deserve so much, you really do! Happy New Year Mr. Stokoe!!! Love ya xoxo

    Like

  36. What a beautiful story! Your students were blessed to have a teacher like you, and you were definitely blessed to work for a school that allowed you to be creative and unique with your students. I truly enjoyed reading this post. It’s very inspiring!

    Like

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