April 09, 2020
Contributors Latest News | Coronavirus | Bangor Metro | Christopher Cassidy | Today's Paper

A trip to the grocery store reminds me why I #LoveTeaching

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

Ask any teacher and they will tell you how the increasing demands of the classroom can make it easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges that exist in education. A lack of resources, poverty, and increased social-emotional needs of students can overshadow the positive experiences teachers have daily in the classroom. Regardless of these challenges, dedicated teachers continue inspiring, encouraging, and engaging students every day to help them grow, learn, and achieve their dreams, even when faced with adversity.

When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind of teaching, I simply take a trip to my local grocery store. It reminds me why I #LoveTeaching. Every. Single. Time.

The first stop brings me to the deli where I encounter another shopper, a woman who used to throw the discus on the track team I coached while I was pregnant with my daughter. This was nearly 18 years ago. In fact, she gave me my very first baby gift, tiny fingernail clippers. I can still recall her excited giggle as I opened them and can still feel the squeeze of her arms around my expanding middle as she shared with me she used her baby clippers even as a young teen. I’ve watched her grow up, fall in love and work hard, smiling every moment of the way.

Then, as I navigate my way to the produce section, I run into a young high school graduate who excitedly shares how he shot his first moose, but explains that he can’t show me a picture because he’s working and not allowed on his cell phone at work. His animated face tells me all I need to know about how he’s created a memory that will last a lifetime and I’m one of the few people who gets to share in that special moment.

Usually, I see one young man in particular. Shy and quiet, he was one of my very first students. I remember the social aspect of school was an enormous challenge for him. So introverted, he struggled to let people into his world. He was my very first intentional, purposeful student-teacher relationship.

I worked diligently to develop a connection with him, trying to peel him from the turtle shell he kept wrapped protectively around him. When I see him now, clearly free of his shell, he happily greets people as he stacks shelves. A special smile is always reserved for me and my heart fills with pride as I watch the confident man standing before me now.

Checkout is always my favorite. Former students working now as teenagers and young adults fight over me like I am Katy Perry on a runaway, or the Beatles running from adoring fans. They rush to pack my groceries and I happily anticipate hearing about their journeys as they turn into the people they were meant to be. And, I know as they walk with me to my vehicle, sharing their joys and sometimes struggles, they have no idea how much I am uplifted. Teachers are indeed privileged shoppers. We’re not treated the same as the average consumer.

Unlike other professions where results are immediate, teaching takes time. Often, teachers don’t grasp the impact of their practice until much, much later. However, when teachers finally get the chance to see the results of their work, the realized impact is the most gratifying and fulfilling reward imaginable.

So, teachers, find your “grocery store,” or whatever it is that reminds you why you are an educator, and take the time to refill your cup with stories and love that only you are privy to. Then, share those stories of why you #LoveTeaching, and that the world and our future is better for it.

Kim Barnes is a teacher at Caribou Middle School and the 2019 Aroostook County Teacher of the Year. #LoveTeaching Week is a national campaign to shine a spotlight on why teachers teach and reminds them that what they do matters.

 


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like