My mom taught children in first grade for much of her career, waking early, toiling throughout the day, planning and preparing phenomenal learning opportunities, and all the while teaching me as a child the power of the words “try” and “do.” So on this Labor Day weekend, I pause to think about what we “try” and “do” as teachers, amid the privilege of working with children.
What’s it like to work in the company of children each and every day? It’s awesome. Simultaneously impressive and daunting, you come to understand the magnitude of your work, and the power of your words and actions. It’s one of a few jobs where what you say and do is likely to spark conversations each and every day, with a child telling a narrative of a shared classroom experience to a family member or a friend. It’s impressive, because children have few of the filters that we as adults employ, so you tend to get very honest and real dialogue. It’s daunting, because standing, kneeling and moving among children for an entire day, you realize teaching and learning can never be a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. And in that realization, there is a fear of failing an individual child, of a “woulda-coulda-shoulda” that keeps you up at night as you think about the next day.
As teachers, we spend time thinking, planning, writing, reflecting before we ever “do.” The stakes are too high to act otherwise. The actual act of teaching in a classroom is only part of the labor, and in any given week we spend more time thinking, building lessons, talking with colleagues and parents, and planning instruction than we do actually implementing those lessons. We are engaged in the powerfully optimistic work of building self-efficacy in our students, so that they might find their own labor of love, and pay it forward to those yet unseen.
So this Labor Day, I am thankful to be an educator among amazing peers, all of whom focus on “doing” each and every day. Our labor shapes not only our classrooms and our students, but it opens a door and leaves “woulda-coulda-shoulda” behind.
Christopher Lloyd, NBCT