30 Days of Reflection: Day 4, Love of Teaching

We have decided to participate in Reflective Teaching: A 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers. This challenge was created by Te@chThought, and the daily prompts can be found here: Reflective Teaching questions. We encourage any teachers to join us in this challenge. Your responses do not have to be lengthy; a paragraph or two would suffice.

Here is our Day 4 prompt: What do you love the most about teaching?

Heather’s Response: Gotta Love Those Quirky Teens

What I love most about my job is interacting with teenagers. When I tell people that I am a high school English teacher, they look at me like I’m cray cray […yes, I just said that…]. “I could never do your job,” they proclaim. “I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with teenagers all day!” To me, that is the best part. I never get bored.

upfrontTeenagers are quirky, fun, weird, moody, dramatic….the list goes on. Despite their veneers — even the ones with the toughest exteriors —  most teenagers are just kids looking for someone to like them. And I do. A lot.

Sometimes my own teenage daughters will meet former students of mine in our small community. What do these Gwinn graduates say?  “Oh, Mrs. Hollands? Yeah, she liked me.” I’m glad I made them feel that way because many really struggle during their adolescent years and don’t always feel that same acceptance from others.

Last week I saw a girl in TJ Maxx  who was my student just this past year. “Do you remember me?” she asked. Huh? I had to laugh. I’m not that old yet! Sometimes I get e-mails from former students, and they say the same thing. “You might not remember me, but….” Of course I remember you! I remember where you sat, what you wrote about, and, for some, how you drove me crazy but I liked you anyways.

Sometimes I run into young men who were mischievous boys in my class. They’ll give me a sheepish “I’ve really grown up since then!” It is neat to see how they have matured, and those kinds of comments always make me smile.

The best part about being an English teacher is that I get to know my students on a deeper level through their writing. When you read a student’s writing for a year — and in my case longer since also I had my current seniors during their sophomore year and part of their junior year — it leaves an indelible fingerprint on your heart.

I feel like I know my students better than most other adults in the school know them and even better than their peers do.  I’ve often thought that if everyone at school could know each other the way that English teachers know each student, this would put a quick end to bullying.

There are many wonderful jobs out there in the world, but I cannot think of one that would mean more to me than being entrusted with the care and education of my students. Even on those days when they drive me ‘cray cray,’ I know that I have the best job.

Amy’s Post: Teaching Nurtures the Spark of Creativity

Brevity is not my strong suit and my aim is to keep this short and sweet (but do not count on it). Even though I am having a difficult time keeping my eyes open writing has a way of jostling me awake.

I like to think that this is what I looked like when I left the house this morning. The after was a different story. ;)

I like to think that this is what I looked like when I left the house this morning. The after was a different story. 😉

I currently have 140 students on my roster and it is no surprise that I am exhausted after trying to match, and surpass, my energy with theirs. It was humid today and during 3rd hour a sweet freshman girl said, “Mrs. Laitinen, you wore your hair down today and I just noticed how pretty it is.” By 5th hour one of my sophomores commented, “Wow, your hair is BIG today!”  (If you are familiar with the TV show Friends, think Monica in the Barbados episode).  Instead of feeling self-conscious, I embraced the crazy-English-teacher look that I like to think that my students adore. When I got home I had to giggle. I was sporting a bright floral skirt, a bright yellow blouse, and a wild, voluminous, mass of curls!

What do I love the most about teaching? The #1 reason that I love my career is that it allows my heart to be flint and issue forth a creative spark. When I became a teacher I promised myself that I would keep things fresh and never be a teacher who kept the copy-machine churning packets and worksheets. Each year and every hour has its own dynamic and is its own organic universe. I often have to change things up hour-by-hour to meet my students’ diverse learning needs. My teaching style is animated and theatrical (I am still waiting for my Oscar) and while I find it energy zapping – teaching is never boring. While I try my best to align my lessons with state and national content standards, I do not rely on canned lessons from text books. My curriculum does contain favorite lessons that I have developed a comfortable rhythm teaching. Yet, I try to develop new lessons to incorporate, add new pieces of literature, and try to bring current event examples into our discussions.

As I began my planning for the school year, I realized that I will be teaching 9th grade students Romeo & Juliet, The Odyssey, and my custom poetry unit for the thirteenth year. Never have I taught these units completely the same and this year will be no exception. For the second year I will also be teaching 10th grade English and this gives me fresh material to work with (in past years I have also taught a section of 12th grade English) In addition, my creative writing class allows me to be less structured and I guide my students into discovering the storylines and verse that lives inside their imagination.

With each year the generation gap in my classroom widens and I must continue to strive to make essential connections with my students. Each year my students’ insight, interactions with our lessons, and perspective on the concepts and ideas we explore help me to become a better teacher.  My classroom is a place of growth and I am allowed to be a student right along with my spirited teenagers.

My personality craves change and I would not do well in a field where I was confined to a desk and an office.  I love that I can move around my room (and I wish that my students could too…more about this tomorrow). My teaching practice is in a constant state of flux and I enjoy that it is not static. I strive to come up with compelling lessons that engage my students and help them think more critically (while I am still a work in progress…I do have some success stories). Teaching is a challenge – it keeps my mind moving and my creativity vibrating.

To end my ramble, I thought I would share links to past blog posts that are examples of how teaching keeps my creative battery charged. My students inspire me and it fills me with joy that I can help them find and flex their voices and imagination by discussions, reading, writing, group and individual projects, and presentations.

My dad always told my brother and me to find jobs that we love, because then our careers would not feel like work. Teaching can be frustrating, exhausting, and confusing at times – but when the creative connections fly in the classroom – the spark is pure magic.  I love being a teacher!

Digital Prose Poetry/Flash Fiction: Five Student Samples

Condensing Our Stories: Six-Word Memoirs

Watching Our Students Find Their Voices

My Students Sing the Body Electric: Digital Spoken Word Poetry

Writing Away the Generation Gap in the Classroom


We are compiling our daily responses to the prompts on a separate page. Click HERE to read our other posts.

If you would like to continue with our 30 day blogging challenge, please follow this blog (on the right side of the page) and/or follow our new Facebook page: Blended Voices – Two Teachers Blog. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

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