by Callie Davies
6:15 a.m. – I pull into the parking lot while it is still dark. I love this part of the day. I love seeing my students’ neighborhood before it wakes up. Peaceful.
I walk to my classroom and turn on my numerous lamps. There is research that suggests that low light provides a better, more calm learning environment. Needless to say, I have bought into it.
7:20 a.m. – The bell rings and the students start rolling in with their breakfasts from the cafeteria. I have spent the last hour preparing for class and working my way through twenty ounces of coffee. I realize that I won’t be any more ready than this to start the day. I’m probably supposed to talk about the sweet anticipation of the day to come, but the truth is that at this time the reality of how long the day is and the fact that there are already a couple of students pushing my patience sets in.
I put on calming music as they eat their breakfast, remembering that my grandmother always said “music calms the savage beast.”
8:00 a.m. – I have just dropped my students off at gym. This is my forty minutes of “plan” time. I take a final look over the language arts lesson, eat a package of dry cereal left over from the students’ breakfast, and grade part of an assignment.
8:45 a.m. – I get my students back from the gym coach and, somewhat surprisingly, I get a great behavior report. I walk proudly with my students following hallway procedures perfectly. I remind my students as we walk, that as we enter the classroom the expectation is that they find their seats and sit down silently.
8:47 a.m. – I don’t know what has happened. We walked from the hallway where everything was perfect. Immediately after we entered the classroom two boys started yelling at each other, upset about something that happened while playing in gym; there is a girl standing directly in front of me who is crying so hard that I can’t understand a word that she is saying; and there is a student standing somewhere behind me silently tapping my shoulder. I am triaging the situation and the tapper is going to have to get more aggressive than that if they need a piece of my oh-so-divided attention. How did we fall from greatness so quickly?
I teach fifth grade at Eugene Field Elementary, a high-poverty school with an at-risk population, across the river from downtown Tulsa. This is only what the first two hours of one of my days looks like, but I feel that this description sets a tone that you can use to imagine what an entire day would be like.
Teaching is so many things in my life:
- Teaching is my passion.
- Teaching is coming home from work absolutely physically and emotionally exhausted.
- Teaching is listening to a specially formulated hype playlist every morning on my drive to work, just to get me through the doors, but feeling at home once I’ve arrived.
- Teaching is knowing the necessary ratio of gently drying tears and intensely enforcing expectations.
- Teaching is managing twenty-three people’s behavior besides my own.
- Teaching is teaching reading as well as social skills, math as well as how to be a decent human.
- Teaching is coming in every day no matter how much I feel like I failed the day before.
- Teaching is providing clean clothes, fresh toiletries, and a safe space for my students.
- Teaching is questioning my choice in profession when I’m feeling unappreciated.
- Teaching is creating a classroom community of students who respect one another regardless of differences.
- Teaching is spending some of my plan periods on the phone making reports to DHS.
- Teaching is leaving work and crying all the way home swearing that I won’t come back tomorrow, but then remembering that nobody can do for my students what I am doing for them.
- Teaching is having the kid that pushes my patience the most make a joke that totally cracks me up.
- Teaching is endless paperwork and working an average of ten hours per day.
- Teaching is crying when I think about the future of some of my students and reminding myself to lay it all out there every day that they are still sitting in my classroom under my influence.
- Teaching is sharing with my students what I hope for their lives and the visions I see for them.
- Teaching is having my funding cut, while the district and state simultaneously raise their expectations for me and my students’ achievement each year.
- Teaching is making a difference and working towards social justice through education.
- Teaching is trying to suck up every minute of my breaks and the weekends to avoid burnout.
And unfortunately, lately, teaching is asking myself if I should stick with a profession that is costing me my sanity for the sake of being really, truly, undeniably great at it.
If not me standing in that classroom, then who?
Callie Davies has lived in the 918 for the past few years, and her view is filled mostly by life with her husband and puppy, as well as a classroom full of fifth graders. She is passionate about impacting lives through education and works in one of Tulsa’s highest needs schools doing just that. Writing is a hobby for Callie and an opportunity to share her view of Tulsa.