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One of the most important aspects of teaching is that you will never stop learning. I knew I would go to professional development, department meetings, and even back to school. What I didn’t know was how much I would learn from my incredible kids.

1. They may not be great at your content, but they are amazing. We all become irritated and frustrated when students do not understand our content or appreciate our mind-blowing lessons. I mean, come on how could one not adore A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream? I have realized just because they are not good at my “thing,” does not mean they aren’t good at other things. It just means they don’t comprehend English or Math.

This didn’t quite connect with me until I saw my students at a football game. The same kids I had in my English class, the ones that did not understand Thomas Paine’s Crisis No. 1, were on that football field doing amazing things. I watched a ball fly through the air and get caught by a kid that barely knew how to write a paragraph. He knew the play and exactly where that ball would be. I watched a girl who didn’t understand the connection between The Canterbury Tales and satire direct the entire high school marching band with a few swishes of her hands. I’ve seen my students twirl in the air and trust their team mates would catch them. I’ve seen students pull out a perfect soufflé and not be able to identify a sonnet. I have learned to appreciate everything my students are. They are not perfect, and neither am I. I have learned you have to see your kids outside your world and you will see how talented they really are.

2. What happens outside of school matters. They did teach us this in college. They did, but it doesn’t really hit home until you have seen it for yourself. This “ah-ha!” moment came a few years ago. I was gathering work for a student that had missed five days of school and I was so frustrated with her. Then she told me in so many words: “look, I know I have missed a lot of school, but no one was home to take care of my little brothers and sisters and I had to stay home. Frankly, Shakespeare doesn’t seem all that important when my family is falling apart.” I took a step back and realized there is more to my kids’ world than my classroom. They have problems. Not everyone comes from a home with two parents, a dog, and a white picket fence. As teachers, we have to be aware of where are students come from in order to teach them and help them reach their fullest potential. I learned I had to “walk a mile in their shoes.” I have seen my students’ neighborhoods. I have seen my empty classroom on parent-teacher conference day. I have seen pants with holes in them and not because they are in style. Sometimes our kids are just trying to survive and you cannot take their lack of interest in your lesson personally. Usually, their behavior has little to do with you and more to do with their personal life. It is not an excuse, but I have learned to understand it.

3. I need them as much as they need me. When I entered the school system, I knew I was needed. I care about my kids and want to better the future. I had no idea how much I would grow to need them. They keep me going. A couple weeks ago, I received flowers from a student just because. She made me cry. A student climbed on a ladder to fix the light bulb in my Promethean board without me having to ask. He just walked in and did it. They pick up books, wipe my board, and say hi in the hall. They make me feel appreciated and needed and you don’t realize how important it is to feel appreciated until you don’t anymore. They tell me thank you for letting them make up work. They laugh with me, and have cried with me. We are a team. We work together to make the best learning environment possible. It takes everyone to make our school system work. I have learned our students play a key role in it, if not the most important role. I do not think I would have learned so much about life if I had joined another profession. My students have opened my eyes and taught me more about humanity than any of the college textbooks I have read. They teach me new things every day. We should all open our eyes and see what they have to teach us while we are teaching them.

Alice has been teaching for fourteen years. She currently teaches English I, English III, English...

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