Teaching is the greatest profession because we can be a family to many. We love many. I often close my emails to parents with the word “love” and then my name because that’s how I truly feel.
I am an elementary school teacher in Southern California. I have been a teacher for the past 16 years and have experienced several grade levels. I recently taught at a Title 1 school where the learning community had a beautifully diverse population and a large portion of the student body qualified for free or reduced lunch.
I have connected hoses outside the back door of my classroom for parents to wash the tents they and their families slept in the night before. I lowered my eyes and kept my mouth quiet, as I could see the pride in their faces. I have bought snacks, classroom pictures, hoodies, socks and toys for children in need. I have looked through my jewelry box at home to give necklaces and bracelets to moms and grandmothers for their birthdays. I am not unusual — this is the life of a teacher. All teachers. We love our children. We want our children to be safe and happy, and we know that the time spent with us might be the best part of their day.
This year after Back to School Night, I posted my usual Wish List. A family opted to buy every book on my list, cubbies for the children, and a device so I could play quiet music and children’s songs. I went into my storage room and secretly cried. The generosity overwhelmed me. I felt tremendously grateful.
During my Back to School Night presentation, the topic of an active shooter came up. My stomach contracted. I didn’t know if I could even repeat the words. This topic had never publicly came up before. Instantly, I heard myself saying, “I would give my life for your child — this is my promise to you.” I tried to make eye contact with each parent. I spoke the truth.
One of the parents joked, “You mean you don’t have an AK-47 in that storage room?”
No. I’ve got an Exacto knife to cut edges off of art projects and another knife to cut birthday cake.
This is something a teacher thinks about every day, something for which we each have a plan, and a plan B and C. I am grateful to now have a classroom with a locking storage room and bathroom, and properly working blinds on my windows. It gives me some sense of security that I can protect my children. One of the parents joked, “You mean you don’t have an AK-47 in that storage room?” I heard a few gasps. I thought, “No. I’ve got an Exacto knife to cut edges off of art projects and another knife to cut birthday cake.” But I’m smart, calm, quick to assess a dangerous situation, and a fierce protector. You would probably laugh at one of my many plans: If it came down to it, I’d lock my children up safety, then take off all of my clothes to throw the shooter off a bit and pray a colleague jumps him. Dumb, I know, but I’m always planning.
The next morning, a mom disclosed to me that her child was adopted. My instant thought was, “Is there a brother or sister for me?!” A set of twins came in the following day with two dads. From both of these disclosures, I smiled inside; here is the family diversity that makes for such a kind, rich, open-minded classroom community. I also thought, how brave parents are to share with me, and how honored I am to know.
I was one of two children experiencing divorce in my Kindergarten in the early 70s. I always had a stomach ache. I felt under-confident and different, a delayed reader. The words “less than” come to mind, and I tried desperately to prove I was just as good. I had a stepmother that quickly entered the picture. I lived with my biological mother, who was a modern dance choreographer. For her “bread and butter,” she was also a high school math teacher. My Dad used to pick up my little sister and me on Wednesday nights in his two seater Datsun-Z. We’d go out to The River Restaurant for pizza. He was a computer science professor at a private college about 30 minutes away. I had the privilege and challenge of growing up in a very colorful household with pluses and minuses.
I never had children of my own. In my 30s, this used to keep me up many nights… most every night. I was desperately seeking Mr. Right or sitting in my studio apartment looking into the cost and steps of adoption. I had a uterus filled with large fibroids followed by a surgery to ensure I could have children. My OB-GYN used to comfort me by saying, “When you find Mr. Right, I’ll make it happen.”
At 52, one year into menopause, I have finally met Mr. Right, but I never got the opportunity to take my doctor up on his offer. After decades of mourning, I have come to the realization that I am super blessed. I have 15 to 24 children on my classroom roster every year. When their parents kiss them good-bye, I know they are in my care. I know that their safety, happiness, academic and social-emotional growth are in my hands for that precious school day. This responsibility is one of my top priorities in life. I fall in love at first sight with my students, and the relationships and bonds created with them will last as long as they’d like. Forever, I hope. I am humbled and honored by parents who bravely drop off their children to me.
Teaching is the greatest profession because we can be a family to many. We love many. I often close my emails to parents with the word “love” and then my name because that’s how I truly feel. My absolute greatest compliment is when a child calls me “Mom.” And sometimes I’m called “Dad” or “Daddy” or “Tia” or “Momma” or “Mommy.” My students laugh. These words all make my heart melt. They stop me in my tracks. I inwardly swell with pride and outwardly stand a little straighter. This is my life as a teacher, and I couldn’t be more grateful or happy. May I be so bold as to think I am a shade of Mom to many.
I am an elementary school teacher in Southern California.