About Teresa

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. While she is currently on her way to a Master of Science in Education from Walden University, she has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

I did not start out wanting to teach. In fact, I recall sitting in a classroom with kids that needed help because the teacher quite obviously put me with them for that reason and thinking, “Oh my God! I will never become a teacher.” I had no patience for the kids who seemed not to care one bit about learning. Reflecting on those moments, I realize that these experiences prepared me to become a more empathetic, caring person. As I got my degree in Psychology and survived three years working for Social Services, I realized I wanted to help children while they could still be changed. In essence, I wanted to inspire young men and women to become more than just a part of the system. I can think of many pitfalls of the education systems, but the reasons to continue teaching far outweigh them. The gratitude for the everyday simple parts of educating young minds keeps me going, and I hope you feel the same way.

Top 10 Reasons to Feel Gratitude as an Educator

  1. Like boomerangs, they always come back. The students, I mean. On the hard days, which students tell me how much they hate my class because I made them follow a rule, I think about the ones I’ve already taught who entered adulthood, and later came back to tell me how much I meant to them. If you care, no matter how hard you are on them, they notice. And they always come back.
  2. I live for the lightbulb moments. When you see a student get something for the first time, it feels amazing. I feel fortunate to say that I see these moments happen all the time. I never respond to a question with an answer. Rather, I answer with another question. When they think about it, heads cocked to the side and then go, “Ooooh…” I can see the little lightbulb going off. I mean, it’s not as big an adrenaline rush as zip-lining or riding a rollercoaster, but the endorphins released from these moments make it well worth it.
  3. I’m not a hugger, but I don’t mind the hugs. See, I usually have this protective bubble around me, so people don’t usually disturb me and put me out of my comfort zone, but receiving a grateful hug from a student is nice. I’m not as comfortable as I am with my own children, but I’m getting pretty used to it. Hugs also release endorphins, by the way, so that’s another bonus.

    I live for the lightbulb moments Click To Tweet

  4. The holiday season is pretty nice.  Getting that time off with my family around the holidays is a perk of being a teacher. I’m not going to lie–I still bring work home with me, but it’s still a break and I still get to spend it with my kids and my husband.
  5. The holiday season… So, the time off is pretty fantastic, but so are the un-asked for gifts from thoughtful students and their parents. I cherish every note, every card, every….everything that I get from my students.
  6. There’s never a dull moment. Some days seem to take an eternity to get through, the most days, I have at least a handful of students who make me smile or laugh. Children are funny little creatures. I mean, I teach quite a few that are taller than me, but they’re still young souls with great senses of humor (most of them). There no greater gift than the gift of laughter. It truly is the best medicine.
  7. I have a captive audience for my terrible jokes. So, 3/4 is sitting at the psychiatrist’s office with pi, and she says, “He’s just completely irrational!” I’m sure if you’re a math teacher, that joke is funny to you. I can come up with some pretty good on-the-spot puns, though, and there’s always that one student in the room who actually laughs at the joke while the others look at him/her like, “Seriously?! Don’t encourage her.” While I rhyme things randomly and throw out random puns, they have no choice but to listen because, I mean, where else are they going to go? Besides, they secretly love the jokes anyway.
  8. Teacher appreciation week can be fantastic. I love how local businesses contribute along with our principal to give us the best week ever. We get free food, tokens of gratitude, and, my favorite, little letters from the students. Appreciation always feels good. It doesn’t matter how it’s expressed, but it’s nice to have a whole week dedicated to it.
  9. Summer break. Yeah, I’m going to have to say that although summer break isn’t always a total break with workshops and refining of lesson plans to get done, it’s still a break. At the end of the school year, after all the testing is done, knowing the end is near can sometimes help pull us through. I love my students, but I can also still love them from afar as they go on to the next grade level.
  10. Every year is a fresh start. Unless your school does the looping protocol, every year you teach a diferent group of kids. This does two things. First, it gives you an opportunity for a clean slate with students who don’t yet know how terrible your jokes are. Secondly, it allows you to watch the other students grow up when you pass by them in the hall. Hearing word about how well my former math students are doing this year makes me feel proud of them. And, like I said at the beginning, they’re like little boomerangs. They always come back.
The top 10 reasons to feel gratitude as an #educator @embracespectrum Click To Tweet

If you’re having a bad day or a bad week, think about all the reasons you feel thankful your job. Remember why you started in the first place. Think about whether you’re really done or not. Think about all the wonderment that comes with teaching students skills they don’t yet know they have and seeing their growth charts at the end of a hard year. As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, I hope you feel the same gratitude for your job as I do for mine. Enjoy your break. Your sweet little angels will be waiting for your smiling face when your break is over. See if you can return their smiles.

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