Head of The Class, Part 4: What I’ve Learned About Me

Teaching makes you really evaluate and reevaluate parts of you that you either didn’t want to look at, or didn’t know existed.  I faced myself so many time, and I didn’t always liked what I saw, and then there were times I completely surprised myself with responses that I never expected from what I knew to be true of me.

When you are constantly surrounded by a slew of individuals that all need your attention right then and there, you make adjustments to how you respond, how you feel, and how you are with not only those individuals, but with yourself.  Teaching was not only a journey for my professional growth, but also for my personal growth.  And what I’ve learned about me is that no matter how much I thought I was a certain way in life, now I can honestly say that I’ve been changed forever, and am a better person because of it.

I’ve learned that…
I have more patience than I thought.  It was a joke when I was a kid that I could never be a doctor because I didn’t have any “patience” (I didn’t say my family was good with jokes, but they did joke!).  And they were right.  I was impatient and I wanted things done my way, and in a timely fashion, according to me.  Unfortunately that led to a lot of meltdowns, emotional breakdowns, and arguments.  But after working with kids who do the same thing – melt down, break down and argue – I had to be the one to soothe and deescalate the situation without losing my cool.  And most times, I was successful (most…), while really tapping into a side of me that I didn’t quite know as well.  That patient side of me is one that I don’t always exercise in my day to day life, but it is something I am more mindful of and am more aware of now that I’ve seen it in action.  I have found that over the last ten years, I have a better handle on being patient in my professional and personal life, but it is something I constantly need to exercise so that I don’t lose the foundation I’ve built.

I’ve learned that…
I’m prepared for a LOT.  I think that after ten years, you experience a lot of people, their emotions, their reactions, their needs… and you are the one to field most of the complaints, concerns, worries, and emotions when it comes to the students in your classroom.  There were days I did not expect storms of papers flying across the room, chairs being thrown, materials flung through the air, crashing down on my classroom floor like bombs, but those days happened.  And when they did, I used the above lesson (patience that I now have) to work through, and to get beyond those moments.  Sometimes the recourse was the part I wasn’t quite prepared for, because you never know which students were affected deeply by these types of actions, so addressing situations, whether they were as difficult as those mentioned above, or as simple as a “he said/she said” scenario, was something I had to always be prepared to do.  Because teachers juggle 20-30 kids a day, you have to know how to also juggle 20-30 possible outcomes at any given moment.  There was never a moment when those munchkins didn’t keep me on my toes!

I’ve learned that…
I had to use my words and express my feelings.  Sounds like something we say to the kids, but adults are not always good at doing such things, and I was one of them!  I liked to hold things in, but not because I couldn’t let out what I was feeling, but was rather afraid to let out what I was feeling.  I was afraid of judgement, ridicule, being left, and sometimes my 6-year-old self shows up as an adult and still feels those things before using my words to express my feelings, but I have been braver since being a teacher.  Processing with students calmer ways to express themselves helped me calmly express myself.  I am admittedly a work-in-progress in this area and all aforementioned areas, but this one pushed me beyond my comfort zone.  Although I was never happy to hold in what I was feeling and thinking, I couldn’t process emotions until I was faced head on with having to do it with others.  Through those times with my kiddos, I understood just how to not be afraid of an outcome and say what needs to be said, but also how to do so more tactfully and gently.  I’m not always successful, because the diva in me still comes out to play sometimes, but I know better than to let her run the show.

I’ve learned that…
Teamwork is more important than being an island.  I was a “I’ll do it myself, thankyouverymuch” type of kid, because as I noted earlier, I was impatient and didn’t think anyone could do anything right!  It had to be done by me… that is until I became a teacher and saw that the only way to get through the day is to work as a team.  But I feel the need to clarify a bit here because I don’t mean necessarily the team with which you directly work – nope, I mean the team of the whole school.  I have unfortunately worked in communities where community was not a priority, and many of us felt that the effort was futile, and we all sectioned ourselves off purely for survival.  We had small teams that were often dysfunctional, but in some ways did support one another.  It wasn’t always easy without the support of the administration, but we eventually worked our way through the process.  However it wasn’t until I reached the place where the grass was actually green and the school community was an actual community that I understood teamwork in a new way.  I saw that people all over the school were supportive of one another, and despite personalities, there was a general sense of belonging and support.  There were blips of challenge, but for the most part, people were a team.  I had a great network of coworkers, friends, and family in my last position, and I know that the “I’ll do it myself, thankyouverymuch” person learned a lot from being there and knowing that life doesn’t move on an island, but rather has to happen as a team.

Life as a teacher changed me in ways I never would have expected, and if you were to meet the Jaime, pre-teacher days, you likely wouldn’t recognize her, because I don’t.  I barely remember her, and I know that this phase of my life was so necessary to move on as a professional and as an individual.  I wouldn’t have traded my life in the classroom for any other job during my formative adult years, and whatever comes next, I will take these lessons, and all other lessons that I’ve learned, with me.

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