I always knew I wanted to teach. I was the kid whose mom and dad let me turn the garage into a classroom. It was complete with every thing a teacher could need. The stuffed animals were all in their rows. I built my own podium, which fell over when I walked past. I made my own U.S. map to pull down from the ceiling that had to be rolled up and tied with a piece of yarn. And…I have never confessed before now, that I stole a chalkboard eraser in second grade from Mrs. Auwen. I was tired of using a sock. I would teach for hours.

In my garage classroom, it was a perfect world. I had a class size of 6. The monkey stayed in his seat, the elephant never forgot her homework, the owl never showed me up with his intelligence, and the sign on the door read “no grumpy parents allowed”. As I look back, what a boring classroom it was!

Where was the child with ADHD? The one with Aspergers? The one who sleeps through lessons? Where’s the one who never turns in assignments? The one constantly blurting out? The one never paying attention? Where’s the one who bullies other kids? The one whose parents are divorcing? The one who is trying her hardest and still failing? That describes a more typical classroom doesn’t it?

I have learned that teaching is a career of compassion. Through the past 9 years, my students have taught me more than I have taught them. It is these children, our “challenges” who have taught me important life lessons: lessons of compassion, lessons of tolerance, lessons of patience, lessons of love. Because every child in my room is someone else’s son or daughter. And they are trusting me, yes to teach them, but more importantly to treat them with goodness and to love them. Even the ones who are hardest to love. A good friend and colleague once told me, “They won’t remember if you taught them their multiplication facts, but they’ll remember how you treated them.”

The “challenges” that have come through the door of my classroom have become some of my greatest blessings, not only because they’ve made me a better teacher. But because they’ve made me a better person.

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