Although she is younger than me by a full two decades, my baby sister Karah is not a baby anymore. She has a college degree, she’s an accomplished photographer and baker, and now she even has her first “big girl” job. I’m proud to say that my sister has joined the family business: education.
Like her grandmother, her father, two of her three brothers, and her sister-in-law before her, Karah has decided to become a teacher. Miss Naughton is currently a third-generation educator in the same small town where our dad and our grandmother also taught school. Obviously, everyone in the family is exceedingly proud of her.
Karah teaches fifth grade, and she is already discovering the goldmine of comedic material with which she is working. Just last week, Miss Naughton was teaching a lesson about the endocrine system and explaining how the body produces hormones such as adrenalin. After she told the students that people and animals can’t voluntarily control the production of these hormones, one of her students raised his hand.
“Miss Naughton,” the boy began, “I don’t really know what this means, but I heard that a wh**e can’t control her hormones either.”
The fact that my sister was able to maintain a straight face until her students left for P.E. is a strong indication that she will be a great teacher. The fact that she nearly died of laughter once the kids were out of earshot is a strong indication that there will be many more laughs in store for her in the future.
I’ve had more than my fair share of laughs while teaching over the last five years. This week is the fourth and final week of my first-ever, long-term subbing assignment, and the group of kids I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this month have made me laugh every single day. They are truly wonderful young people, and I will miss them terribly after my assignment ends Friday afternoon.
You never know what to expect when you work with children. They’ll make you laugh, make you cry, and make you crazy. Sometimes all at once. I especially enjoy working with younger kids because they are so eager to learn and so eager to please. Sure, my patience gets put to the test once in a while, but I wouldn’t trade my job for anybody else’s.
Although I am just a sub, I think my experience of working in multiple classrooms with hundreds of kids over the years qualifies me to give some unsolicited advice to Karah and other new teachers like her.
First, you can never have enough dry-erase markers. You will still have a hundred unopened boxes of tissues by the end of the school year, but there won’t be a working dry-erase marker within ten miles of your classroom by Thanksgiving break.
Ticonderoga #2 pencils are the only pencils worth having. Other brands will break every time you try to sharpen them and you will eventually become enraged and chuck all of those glorified toothpicks in the trash.
Never take a kindergartener’s word for anything—ever.
When you become frustrated with a student’s behavior, take a moment to contemplate their home life. I’ve had kids tell me about losing a parent, a grandparent, or even a sibling. Kids are sometimes abused or neglected. Many have no positive adult role models outside of school. Always strive to be a fair, compassionate, and positive person in your students’ lives. The difference you make in just one child’s life could change the world.
Have fun. Yes, teaching is work. It is a job, and it can be a very difficult job. But it is also a really fun job. There is nothing wrong with speaking in a silly voice once in a while to get the kids’ attention. It’s okay to let your guard down and dance with the kids during brain breaks. And feel free to school everybody on the playground in Four Square—just to show ‘em what’s up.
Karah, you really don’t need my advice. You’ll figure it all out for yourself soon enough. Just know that I am very proud of you, and I will always be here for you if you ever need anything—or if you have any more hilarious fifth grade stories to share.