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.

86 thoughts on “Teaching is Beyond the Classroom

  1. I didn’t think it was possible….but you just made me miss being a high school teacher! It definitely wasn’t my calling, but I LOVED my students, and my last year teaching they did SSOOOO AMAZING on their standardized tests. I ❤ them still and still keep in touch with some of them 🙂

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  2. I’ve always been torn about going into teaching, I love one on one tutoring but the thought of having a classroom of kids scares me. Thank you for showing us this perspective, means a lot. That’s the type of teacher that we remember, the ones who make a difference and truly change and influence us. Looks like an experience of a life time if you treat it the way you did.

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  3. Wonderful post. Teachers like you are a blessing. Working within the school system for years it disturbed me the many were old school there for a check and not much more. Love that you became a great influence it lasts forever great job!

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  4. I volunteered in an elementary school library and I loved it. It was so rewarding to see the children smile when they would come in the library. A teacher can make all the difference in a child’s life! Good work Lesley!

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  5. Great story, one that many of us in the teaching profession can appreciate!

    Thanks for recently visiting my site and responding you liked it at: Bigpictureone.wordpress.com
    My background in teaching secondary education is with digital media related subjects, through CTE. The website I mentioned is what I’m trying to develop for web based , E-Learning to help support classroom teaching. If you have a chance, please visit again.

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  6. Awesome read! I just wish there were more “connected” teachers out there, especially in the middle-high school classrooms. My teen has had a few inspirational, awesome teachers along the way, but for each great one, he has had one-two “downers” or “just plain not here” teachers. Especially tough when you have a kid with complex medical issues, and a teacher doesn’t get it. Hope you get back to teaching in a classroom one day … those CA kids will be very fortunate.

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  7. Great post. My teenagers have had a few teachers like you, and it is wonderful to see them grow and learn due to such an invested teacher. Such a gift.

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  8. Me and my husband’s favourite High School teacher took our pictures for our wedding. ^_^

    Those bonds last LONG after school does. It’s incredibly important for a student to really connect with at least one teacher in their lifetime. I’m lucky enough to say I was on a first name basis with many of my teachers. And because of this, I did very well in school because I loved learning! Thank you for being one of those teachers!

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  9. After 15 years of teaching I’ve learned that being a teacher is a lifestyle, not a career. It’s one of those encompassing professions that never leaves your persona. I will share this with you: after you have children of your own you become an even better teacher because all of a sudden you understand what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk!

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    • Many of us in the choir are singing… right on to what you’re saying! Teaching is one of the oldest professions/lifestyles, so how do we keep it new, fresh and exciting? For me, part of the solution is learning from the students themselves, which rejuvenate and always pushes me further to discover new, successful ways of sharing information and ideas.

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  10. Pingback: Teaching isn’t about test scores. « mypaperlessphd

  11. Thank you so much for liking my new blog ArtTeachTravel. I see that we have a lot in common! Your blog is so wonderful and inspirational. I do hope you will follow or check in on my blog as I definitely will on yours. All the best,
    Anita Horton

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  12. I love that you show your students it’s okay to have fun in class and in life! I definitely think kids can tell when their teachers are walking the journey of education with them, rather than just leading them. Love the ’80s look, by the way! 😉

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂

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