I mean apart from the obvious stuff, like the ridiculously short hours, great holidays and decent pay!
Infectious laughter: Four little kids laughing themselves silly having caught sight of themselves in a mirror with their hoods up. Giggling hysterically at the ‘high’ of having rocked a little too hard on the see-saw. Practically falling off their chairs when I attempt to speak Arabic, dance or sing – three things I’m highly skilled at. Highly. Skilled. I doubt there’s a job in the world where you get as much genuine laughter as teaching infants [though this also applies to tears depending on the day]
Getting to be a kid yourself: I wrote about this a little bit before, here. Kids are impulsive. You never know when they’re randomly going to burst into song, attempt to break dance, have a scrap or run up while you’re in the middle of a lesson on punctuation to give you a hug and say “I love you”.
And that spontaneity rubs off on you as a teacher. You get the giggles with them. Sometimes when I should be giving out to a child for being cheeky I have to turn to the board for a minute to keep a straight face because damn those kids are funny. Occasionally I spend my breaks in the yard playing and talking with them even if I’m not on duty, because the things they say and do are infinitely more interesting than that of the middle-aged women in the staffroom.
Brainwashing: Okay, it doesn’t sound good when you put it like that, but as well as you taking on some of your classes personality, they can take on some of yours. Seeing them take on your mannerisms is just hilarious, but actually getting to impart something they will probably never learn from another teacher is a great gift to be able to give. I’ve taught a lot of Arabic kids about Ireland, especially the Irish language, and I’ve done my best to show my little girls that they are every bit as strong and intelligent as the boys. You never know where the dots might connect in the future so that that stuff means something.
The genuine achievements: There is nothing more satisfying than hearing the kid that couldn’t speak a word of English when he came to you reading a story. Or when the girl that you sat with for ten minutes every day for two months because she couldn’t get the hang of mental math gets 100% in her exam.
This doesn’t just apply to academic stuff either. Helping a new or shy kid to make friends, getting through to kids who are wasting their potential, teaching them about different cultures, explaining how stuff we do in class relates to the world… On a slightly less upbeat note, there are times when you get to give a bit of comfort and sanctuary to kids that you know have a hard time at home.
A lot of times in the classroom, you’re just filling pages in a workbook and hoping they’re picking it up, but some days you get to do the above instead, and it’s a really wonderful feeling.
It makes me really sad in a way that I don’t get to watch these little kids grow up – I know they’re destined for big things. But I’m proud of the influence I’ve had on them, and I hope when they’re my age they look back and have happy memories of Grade One with Miss Katie.
I wonder what memories my Primary School teachers have of me….