The bond between a teacher and her students runs deep. Students treasure their teacher, every piece of her presence. They prize her quirks, her expectations, her hugs, and her voice. Students believe in their teachers.
Other adults may be flawed, but a teacher is a rarity, a perfect being. I do not know this from being a teacher. I know this from being a substitute.
In the end of April my mentor teacher was blessed with a perfect baby girl. I was blessed with her class. My transition from student teacher to substitute was smooth but far from seamless. We all felt the absence of Molly in the room.
Math work time was a buzz of voices. I assume they are talking about math. Really, I am just relieved that they all appear to be working. They love measurement. Thank goodness.
As I watch two children work together to discover which parts of their body they can use to approximate an inch, a child walks toward me from across the room. Actually, she didn’t really walk. She marched with purpose, her face glowering at me.
Looking down her little nose at me, she put her hands on her hips and informed me that there was much too much talking for her and her partner to do their work. I gently explained that the noise level was working for most of us, since collaboration was key to the project we were working on. In an attempt to appease her, I told her that I would ring the chime and remind her classmates to use the quietest voices they could dig up.
She looked at me like I had just suggested that we all stand on our heads until recess, like I was an incompetent and rather silly, bug to be squashed. As I tried to brush off her look and began to walk toward the chime, she charged after me and seven words exploded from her exasperated lips. They were words that I was already, even after just two weeks, used to hearing.
“That is not how Molly does it.” Bottled up in those seven words, I heard all the trust and the love that these students held in their hearts for their teacher. I heard their frustration and their sadness that things had changed. I heard their disappointment that they had been disconnected from a wonderful partnership.
These seven words, even though they discouraged and upset me, also gave me hope.
“That is not how Molly does it!” taught me that teachers have power. Teachers can evoke change because of the love and trust of their students. When teachers work to understand and truly know their students, the connection between teachers and students is one that lingers, one that lasts.
As I begin my first year of teaching, I look forward to forging my own bonds of mutual understanding with my students. I also am working to remember that all of my actions, all of our interactions matter, that they are the building blocks in growing relationships.
Perhaps one day I will be lucky and successful enough to have a substitute who, like I once did, longs to cover her ears to blot out the indignant cries of, “That is not how Kelly does it!”