This I Believe

Wendy - Los Angeles, California
Entered on December 28, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe: Teach From Your Heart


Thirty bodies scoot their chairs back, scramble under their desks, and assume a fetal position, with their hands covering the backs of their necks.

My class has just practiced our monthly drop-drill. In the event of an earthquake, it is the hope that my students would not panic but would remember my “drop” instructions and safely lunge under their desks.

My in-class drop drill and our school-wide fire drills are mandated. And like the theory courses I took while earning my teaching credential, these drills work well in theory and not necessarily in “real life.” When the floor is shaking and books are falling, who knows how we will really respond.

I hope I will never have to implement these drills in a real situation. Yet there are events and situations that regularly arise for which I have no training. And for these events, I wing it. I guess, try my best, and hope I’ve done okay.

Not once did someone tell me how to handle a nose bleed. Or a kindergarten child that just couldn’t unzip her jeans in time. No one showed me how to console a kindergartner whose pet had died over the weekend. No one instructed me on the best way to handle the issue of Santa Claus. No one told me about the proper steps to take when a student’s tooth falls out during lunch and leaves a bloody mouth and a half-eaten apple.

No one taught me the art of carefully-worded report card comments. There are nicer, more “politically correct” ways to say “talks too much,” or “is wild on the yard.” Parents don’t really want to read that and teachers don’t really want to write that.

No one told me about the seniority system that could bump me out of a grade level. No one coached me on making the transition to fourth grade after teaching kindergarten for five years.

My students often ask me how long I went to school before I could become a teacher. I don’t tell them the truth, “too long.” A bachelor’s degree and my teaching credential are the required pieces of paper. Unfortunately, there’s very little I learned from my years as a teacher education student that I use on a regular basis in my own classroom. My teaching is a result of learning-on-the-job, observing veteran teachers, and listening to my instincts.

I align teaching with parenting. You can read the books, talk to those who have done it, but not until you are on the spot, in the moment, will you really know what to do. Never did I think I would tell a student they were annoying their class with the tap-tap-tap of their pencil. In theory, I would have thought I’d use a nicer word than “annoy.” But “annoy” is what came out of my mouth. Never did I think I would tell my students I love them as much as I do. But I do. All the time. It just feels right, and so I say it. Without planning it or practicing it.

They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Sometimes it’s true in my classroom. The lesson plans are all fine and dandy on paper. But it is the class discussions, the questions and answers that go back forth, the participation that really shows me if a lesson was productive or not.

I start each day in Room 2 with all this reserve knowledge (drills, scripted reading programs).

What unfolds during the course of the day? It’s up to my students and me.