I remember the first time I entered the classroom from the teaching perspective as one of the formative moments that helped shape my life’s calling. As a music education major I was required to split my student teaching between secondary and elementary. The secondary phase had been a joke. Perhaps the experience was shaped only by timing, as the high school choir program that spring was in the final weeks of a huge fund raising project. The director used me as no more but a free lackey to total up the orders and process packages. It was a total waste of time.
But the second phase, in Maxey’s elementary classroom, my eyes were opened and the events affected one career I would choose and another I would deselect.
From almost the first day, under her mentoring eye, she turned the classroom over to me. I was thrown into the deep end of elementary music and fine arts. I knew the content, I could teach the songs, and engage the elements, but I was not prepared for teaching.
I remember the day a student interrupted the song cycle to politely raise his hand to tell me and his entire class that his parents were getting divorce. Another day a child appeared in my classroom that presented physical signals that she had been abused. Every class had more than 10% that were underfed and under cared for. The cultural and contextual real life situations overwhelmed the content presentations that I was supposed to teach.
By the end of the first week, Maxey had her first evaluation with me. How do you do this? I asked her. Simultaneously she smiled and a tear ran down her cheek. And I’ll never forget her answer.
You don’t by yourself. Maxey went on to tell me about her faith and what she did outside the classroom for her mental and spiritual health to balance the storm she rode every day in the classroom.
For some, she was the source of their Christmas. For others, she wept when they grew up and were lost to bad choices. But she kept coming, year after year, into the classroom, because she was not alone.
This week, as our teachers go back into that storm, I’m thinking of you. I know the local press is talking about new technology and pay raises as if that assuages the storm.
I know it does not. I’ve asked local administration what they’re doing to assist in your spiritual and mental well being. The early answers are lacking. Not much.
But today I simply want to say I’m not in your league. I learned in Maxey’s classroom that I did not have what it takes to ride in that storm. While there are moments in my calling that resemble yours, mine is a momentary bump in what you experience every day.
You have my prayers, but you have more than that, you have my utmost respect and I will keep poking those who hire you, pay you, and put you in the storm to do more to take care of you.
(Original Content written by Mike Hunter, August 2014)