Why I Teach in St. Cloud

Education is both our most powerful weapon and honorable prestige.

When you’re called to be a teacher, people assume it’s because you want to relax during your summers and giggle with children during the school day.  Let me be the first to tell you that while teaching is sincerely rewarding, it is an incredibly hard and emotionally challenging job.  Education requires specific people to be placed in each position in order to be successful.  Not even free summers and kid-giggles make up for the hardness of the job.

But when people hear that you’re a teacher in my district, you’re instantly given one of two looks: pity or disgust.  Both of which are equally offensive because of the high praise I continue to give to all the members of this body.

It was important to me to understand the demanding, terrible, and undeniable pieces of teaching before becoming an educator.  As it turns out, some of these aspects are what I love most about the gig.  And while I am still a fresh face in this community of educators, please know that the required amount of effort and energy to perfect this broken system is not lost on me.  I get it- our jail cells are full, our mental health crisis continues to rise, and there is, frankly, not enough help for those who need it. We have a lot of work to do.

I, however, want to focus on these four beautifully unpleasant, harmonious and ridiculous pieces of our schools that, ultimately, are my favorites.

4. The Scenery– When I walk through the school doors, I am awed at its vibrancy and dazzle.  No, not the building itself, of course.  It’s the people in these buildings that remind me of a box of a thousand crayolas parading through the halls.  The students are such a vast array of chestnut, rose, chocolate, peach, ochre, beige, vanilla, mocha, and cedar.  They wear yellow hijabs, have green hair, purple shoes and silver laces.  Their colors tell such unique stories of who they are and where they’ve been.  Their colors display honor to their families, their faith, and their individuality.  It is so visually striking to walk in the doors and be simultaneously reminded of both uniqueness and unity.

3.  The Need- There is always something to do, always someone to help, always some way to love harder.  We have kids who’ve experienced unimaginable trauma and live with abuse and neglect.  Some of our babies come hungry and dirty.  Some of our kids live in four-bedroom houses with a double garage and a full refrigerator.  Some of our kids have parents who are doctors or lawyers.  They all have different stories, different families, and different circumstances. We love them all- believe me, we do. And when they walk through their school doors, they are validated, adored, and encouraged.  But the ones that have the hungry bellies and the sad thoughts continue to create a different meaning in our lives.  They all deserve to be children- to be safe, healthy, and cherished.  That need empowers us to love harder. They empower us to fill in the gaps.  And there are always gaps, there is always a need.

2. The Hard- We love our students enough to have expectations and to hold them to a standard for which they can be successful.  We give them truth about the world and require effort to better themselves for tomorrow.  A lot of times it’s hard.  Sometimes it comes with consequences.  But we are not truly loving these children if we aren’t firm, if we don’t give them structure, and if we aren’t truthful.  We are not truly loving these children if we don’t allow them exhausting, difficult, and demanding opportunities and experiences.  It is easy to let them fail.  It is easy to let them stay comfortable.  But when I look at my colleagues, all the way from custodian to principal, from para to teacher, from OT to superintendent, I appreciate the hard that we all share (because none-absolutely none- of these jobs are simple).

1. The Community- It’s downright appalling that community members can believe our brown students, our trauma students, our refugee students, our gender diverse students, our impoverished students and our disabled students don’t hold merit in our buildings.  It’s disgraceful to see such spiteful words and actions from our neighbors who are unable to see the beauty in our walls.  But, I believe, in doing all the things above with fidelity and devotion.  And when things are done in love, our love grows.  The community will continue to build, continue to grow, and continue to change with all of its inhabitants.  The community will continue to be fortunate, healthy, and spirited as our young ones grow and become our next leaders.  These buildings are, in fact, giving these babies hope for a peaceful future.  A better tomorrow.  And a more loving, welcoming community.

What an honor it is to be a part of a love that is so important.