I am often confounded by the perceived notion of what a teacher is. I am often asked, “What do you do?” I respond, “I am a teacher.” I get varied responses to this. Usually they include words and phrases like, “cute,” “how fun,” or “you are a saint,” as if I am doing some sort of self-sacrificing charity work.
Even filling out the calorie counter on My Fitness Pal impressed on me the stereotype, as it lists a teacher as “lightly active.” I get 7,000-10,000 steps a day just from my time “teaching.” As I pondered this, I began to list some of the “lightly active” activities we do here at A New Leaf.
In the past two weeks we have cleared the trails leading to the clearing, cleared underbrush, rocks, fallen branches, tree trunks and other detritus from the woods. We spent about six hours shoveling at least 200 pounds of sand back into the sand garden. We tended the gardens and did general maintenance on the playscape. Inside, we removed and sorted every material in the building, cleared out our storage unit, and sorted those materials as well.
During all of this physical work we created documents for planning, reviewed licensing protocols, and continued training on the Tennessee Early Learning Development Standards. We gathered materials for the first weeks of school to spark interest and curiosity and engaged in lengthy professional development.
This is all in the three weeks before school starts. When school does start we will do all of this in addition to attend seminars, workshops, trainings, and work on degrees in order to further our professional development. We will spend time mending boos boos, taking care of hurt feelings, and dealing with emotional experiences (whatever they may be). Faculty and staff will help coach parents on navigating the trials, tribulations, joys, and triumphs of their children’s growth. We will help families through stressful emotional circumstances and celebrate the successes in our learning journey.
Some days we will explore in the woods climbing, balancing on logs, crawling through small and large spaces, and comparing heights of trees, sticks, logs, and branches. Other days we are painting, measuring, drawing, singing, assessing development and learning, and introducing materials and places that we feel will excite the student mind.
Lightly active? Cute? Saintly? Maybe.
All I know is that we work. Hard.
Through it all the unique quality of the teachers at A New Leaf, and I am speaking from past experience, is we all love our jobs. The physicality of it, the mental challenges, the thought provocation, and the bonding that happens while we share in these activities is unmatched by any other experience.
I love waking up knowing that it is quite possible I may spend my day in the woods or gardens. I will get a chance to go outside and walk forest trails in the middle of Nashville. I may end up doing very in-depth light table explorations, or art work, or sit on the comfy couch and talk about rainbows, and insects, and cars. One day, I may come in and realize I need to change the classroom environment. Based on student feedback, we will move furniture and rearrange things to better accommodate their learning. I will get to laugh with my co-teachers and spend time with my director (and friend) as she helps to guide us in environmental design and pedagogical development.
So yes, I am a Teacher! Come run in the woods with me, climb fallen logs, paint and dance, and sing with me. Come blaze a trail and clear out brush so we have more places to explore and investigate. Complain about the traffic, tell me your fears, wants, wishes, and hopes for the future. Cry on my shoulder because your two-year-old is giving you a hard time. Cry on my shoulder because mommy said you had to leave Lovie at home today, or you could not wear your favorite dress. Cry on my shoulder because you are so happy you came to school today.
I am a Teacher and this is what I am trained to do. This is what I am meant to do. This is what I love to do.