In one more day, they’ll be here. All of their bright and sunburnt faces will be staring back at mine. They don’t know it, but they’re gonna DO WORK.
Last night was Open House. At Bethel, this happens the Monday or Tuesday night before school starts and it is used as a way for freshmen to come into school and figure out their classrooms and meet their teachers. It’s precious to see their scared faces, fully knowing that a much older version of that face was mine last year at this time. This year’s open house was a lot different from last year in that I already know most of my students. They’re the 10th grade versions of my first class, Bethel Middle School 8th graders. I’m both elated and terrified at having them back in my class. A few of those reasons are that I know them and their temperaments and my class is nothing like Mrs. Holt’s class. In fact, mixed in with learning and reading and writing, we have a lot of fun. We laugh most of the time. I had one of last semester’s students come in and tell a new sophomore, “It’s a blast, seriously the most fun class ever.” I hope she learned something, too, but I’m glad she also had fun. Another one of my “favorites” came in and told me that she’d miss my class because she went home every day with a stomach ache from laughing. I asked her what she was laughing at and she said me. I don’t know whether to be flattered or concerned by that last comment… but I’ll take it.
One of the biggest deals about Open House is that I get to meet parents. I like to talk to them and it’s so encouraging to hear them say things like, “I’ll put down my cell phone and I’m serious: do not hesitate to call any time. I back you up 100%.” *FIST PUMP* Those are my favorite parents. I hope to never need to call them, but I like knowing they support me. A problem with meeting parents, though, is that I don’t know how many times I get the once over and then this question, “So, you’ve graduated? Very recently?” Or, “You’re so young! You look like you’re still in high school!” Yes, I see myself in the mirror every day. I know that I look young. I took it in stride last year, because I was a newb and for all intents and purposes: I did look super super young. But I literally have wrinkles and gray hairs, and I dress so much more professionally. One freshman walked in and said, “Oh, I thought you were just some random 16 year old who was sitting in here. There’s no way you’re actually a teacher…?!” I just smiled and shook my head.
I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth.” I know that no one is despising me, but I hate that that’s the first thing they notice. I have a piece of paper that says I’m qualified, it’s real fancy. I have great test scores that prove that I know what I’m doing and that my students learn in my classroom. I have the most ridiculously organized lesson plans and units. I come prepared. Yes, I look like a baby and maybe I giggle a lot. I also may say whatevs more than necessary, but I’m a good teacher. I am young but I am fierce.
I struggled with that all night, as parents skeptically looked at me and shook my hand. I knew some of them and they know who I am, that I’m capable of doing right by their kids. I was a little at my wits end as far as parents and students looking at me funny when one mother, whose son is one of my favorite kids with special needs, looked me in the eye and said, “You are so young. But you know what, teaching is for the young. I’m glad you’re here.”
Just as I didn’t like being the bottom of the heap in high school and college, I don’t like people thinking I’m too young for the job. I love my career and my students and what I get to teach. I am not wishing to look old and curmudgeonly (which I know will happen soon enough!). I just want people to know that I’m young but completely capable, dare I say it, completely successful at what I do.