They say if you do what you love, it’s like you’ll never work a day in your life. To be fair, I don’t love everything about teaching. I don’t love spending hours grading, I don’t love how everyone that has an opinion about how teachers should teach or be paid probably hasn’t spent much time in a classroom lately (especially in a Title I school), and I don’t love end of the year stress at all.
That being said, there’s a lot that I do. I love getting a class roster for the first time in August. I love a whole rainbow set of Sharpies and freshly sharpened pencils. I love the first day of school. I love field trips, science experiments, and math problems. I love school plays, picture day, class pets, and book fairs. I love reading, writing, spelling, math, social studies, and science. I love that moment when a kid finally gets a concept they’ve been struggling with and their face just lights up. I like getting up in the morning and coming to work. I genuinely love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
When I got to Okinawa, there were no teaching jobs available. That was a tough pill to swallow. I took home the sub packet to fill out and hounded every single “in” I had in the teaching community here. Eventually, I was offered a position teaching Sure Start. Did I know what Sure Start was? Not really. It sounded a lot like Head Start, a program at my old school, so I had a general idea that it was Pre-K program that was all day. It paid the same as other grades – and a job with pre-k was better than no job at all.
What I didn’t know is how exhausting spending all day with very, very little people could be. I had only taught second grade before. I’m used to seven year olds. Seven year olds don’t (normally…) wet their pants, throw temper tantrums, cry on a daily basis, or depend on you to help them do things. In the grand scheme of things, they’re pretty self-sufficient. So, as you might imagine, 4 year olds are a shock to the system.
Even though they are small in stature, they have very big hearts. They love moving, playing, laughing, building, creating, singing (especially my class), and learning new things. They’re passionate about sharing, taking turns, being kind, and trying their best. They are always happy to see you in the morning and sad to leave you in the afternoon. They are big on Thomas the Train, play-doh, cookies and milk, and giving hugs. They are not fond of any vegetables, being quiet in the hallway, or naptime (AT ALL). They’re pretty awesome at letters and letter sounds, counting, making patterns, and jumping down from high places on the playground the minute you’re not looking.
I learned a lot about myself by spending a few months with them and I’m genuinely sorry to see them go. They all graduated yesterday and going to work today has been oddly quiet. No one was asking me to tie their shoe. There were no arguments over crayons, scissors, or glue sticks. No one needed a hug or a tuck-in at naptime. I did not have to dance to the musical stylings of Dr. Jean. I didn’t have a line leader, a door holder, or even a fish feeder. I didn’t apply any band-aids or open any milk cartons. I spent today taking down artwork, filing, cleaning up, sorting through what can be pitched and what can be stored for next school year. This time of year is always a bittersweet mixture of anticipation and nostalgia that only a teacher can know. So, to my teacher friends who feel my pain and excitement –have a wonderful, relaxing, peaceful kind of summertime. <3 (We’ve earned it!)