by Katie Kinder
I’ve been pondering this thematic idea of the ‘unseen.’ Have you ever been to Disney World? Disney lives and dies by creating an experience that will last a lifetime. When you work for Disney, you are always ‘on a stage.’ Backstage is the area of the parks that no guests see. I only know this because my brother, Bill, worked for Disney for a summer.
As teachers, there are a lot of moving parts in our days. There is a lot unseen by students, parents, and admin during a school year. We must hide a part of ourselves and always be ‘on.’ Heaven forbid we become the emotional, complex beings that we are, and that our kids are. What else is ‘unseen’ in education? The extensive amounts of grading, lesson planning, professional development attending, and researching the most cutting edge innovation in education. But, what is often hiding under the surface of every teacher I know is the fact that doing this job is far more physically, emotionally, and financially draining than anyone can guess at unless you are, in fact, a teacher.
It is a fact in this calling of ours that we will leave the building with a heavy heart sometimes; that is just the nature of it. This is messy, human work, and it will never look like the perfect, color-coded spreadsheet of an accountant. Do you know what else can be unseen: kids. Think of your students; you spend most of your time engaging, and trying to reengage those ‘big’ personalities, but have you taken the time to see the unseen. The quiet one, the one who might be humiliated if you call on her? The one who you may forget in five years when you’ve had over 500 students since she sat in your class.
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One of my most magical years as a teacher was when I got to loop with a special group of 7th graders into their 8th grade year. I didn’t have to spend nine weeks training them or going over procedures, learning their names, or learning where each child was on the academic scale. I knew them, so we got right to it. My students made huge gains that year in writing, in grammar, in life lessons. Last weekend, they graduated from high school c/o 2022! They invited their old 8th grade English teacher, and I was there! I knew they would be held in the gym or some other large area of the school before the pomp and circumstance began, so I came early, and made my way in there first. As kid/young adult after young adult ran at me and burst into tears, I remembered my why. Sometimes your why seems unseen many times. One boy, who was quiet, who was studious, who I had for two years in a row, could not stop sobbing. I promised him I hadn’t died; I was right here, and if he needed me, I would help!
They were the blessings to me, and as I drove away from graduation that night a little misty eyed, I remembered the life lessons they taught me. Teachers, although you are on stage, and rarely let anyone backstage, and most times you feel unseen, frustrated, or sad, remember your huge impact on kids who you may never even realize until years later that you made a difference in their lives.
Still, let’s listen to teachers. Pass legislation that will help retain our teachers who are feeling unseen. Give them wrap around services in their buildings. We need trauma informed specialists, more counselors, psychiatrists, smaller class sizes, and better working conditions. Our kids deserve it. Our teachers deserve it.
Teach On, Warriors. I’m rooting for you!
Author & Speaker
Katie Kinder has been an educator since 2006. She believes that life is fun, and learning should most definitely be fun. A teacher of the year, top five district finalist, OKC Rotary Teacher of the Month, professional development leader, and a top 100 educator in Oklahoma on Twitter, Katie has learned a trick or two in the classroom.
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