If you had asked me five years ago about my dream job, I would have responded that all I wanted was to teach 1st grade in a small, rural town. Today I realized that my dream job has not changed, but somehow what I am doing right now (5th grade in the small, rural town of Platteville) is my dream job.
I have a wonderful group of 5th graders this year. They are helpful, loving, and enthusiastic about learning. After my principal observed me for the 2nd time this year, he told me that my greatest strength as a teacher is my ability to develop relationships. He also commented that it seems like I relate well to this age group (10-11 year olds). I do love them. :) They are all so unique and dynamic. It’s exciting to learn about their personalities, encourage them in their strengths, and support them in their weaknesses. I love the day-to-day interaction and growth. One student wrote me a note one day that said, “Friendship isn’t one big thing; it’s a million little things.” That is so true. It’s the day-to-day little things that matter the most.
Today (the day before Christmas break) started with craziness and ended with reflection. First, we embarked on a search for a student’s missing bubble sheet for EVERY test she had taken this week. We were determined to find it – otherwise, she would have to take all the tests again – in one day. Amazingly, we were able to recover it from the recycling box in my classroom without much trouble.
Mid-morning, it was time to open some gifts. I am learning recently about our need for human relationships. We were created to travel life together. I purchased a copy of our next read-aloud book (The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) for each student and wrote a personal message inside the front cover of each one. I was able to find something special to write to each student. I thought the boys wouldn’t care much for their notes, but they surprised me. As soon as they had read them, several of the boys began asking me if they could read their note out loud to the entire class! Soon, the girls joined in, and we spent about 10 minutes while almost every student read their personal note out loud. While one student was reading, the other students would smile and agree as the compliments were shared. It was a sweet time of class bonding. :)
Every year on the last day before Christmas break, Platteville Elementary has an all-school sing-along. Every student and teacher, along with bunches of parents, cram into the gym to sing Christmas carols and hear The Night Before Christmas read by the principal. This year, I got to play violin for the sing-along! It was amazing. I had been nervous all morning, but it all melted away as the hundreds of kids files into the gym with bright eyes of excitement upon seeing my violin. “Look! A violin!” “Miss Agee’s going to play the violin!” Though we barely practiced at all beforehand, I loved it. The kids sang their hearts out, and my confidence grew with every song. I got to play the first verse of Silent Night as an instrumental, which was so good. When the sing-along was over, the principal thanked the music teacher and then me. Upon hearing “Miss Agee,” the gym exploded with cheering and clapping. I felt so honored, I can’t even describe it in words.
But the realization of my dream job didn’t come until after the craziness of the Christmas party, as the day began winding down and everyone began to reflect. Sometimes when I look at people, my heart hurts because I can see something difficult in their lives – some burden that they carry in their eyes. When I student taught 1st grade, many of the kids came from very difficult homes. Right before a long break, they usually acted funny because school was their safe place…and they wouldn’t be at school for a week or more. I had kinda forgotten about that until today.
One student in particular was clingy all day. When I was supposed to be practicing with the music teacher, she came and found me – twice. This afternoon when it was time to go, she came up to me and flung her arms around me. “Miss Agee, I’m excited for break, but it won’t be good without you.” I wasn’t sure what to say. Instantly, I was taken back to the 1st grade classroom at Highland Elementary. I was fully aware of the needs and hurts of this 10-year-old girl, who just wants someone to love her. She is constantly seeking attention from others because of how little she gets at home…but I have connected with her. She loves writing, and so do I. Even the tiniest word of encouragement makes her beam.
Another student burst into tears when the bell rang and most of the students bounced out of the room. “I don’t want to leave,” she said through tears into my shoulder as I hugged her. Seeing these students’ love for school made me realize that this is right where I have always wanted to be – this is my dream job. It was not the 1st grade part I was so in love with; it was the I-am-needed part. It is such a privilege and blessing for me to pour into and love these students – I wouldn’t trade that for anything.