Why do I teach in a Renaissance school when there is a very nice middle class school practically in my backyard? Although the standard answer might be because I can, I really enjoy working in my Renaissance school. I have been at my school for 12 years now and have made a lot of friends with fellow teachers and paraprofessionals. However, the real reason I stay is because of the children.
Is it always easy? No. Is it always enjoyable? No. Can it be stressful? Yes, just as with any job or career. I can say I have had some moments (just as all teachers, regardless of where they teach) wishing something could have changed to make my life a little less stressful. However, I look forward to seeing my students’ and other students’ faces each and every morning when I greet them at the gate (my duty post), welcoming them to school. I was a resource teacher last year and since I did not have a homeroom, I was assigned watching to make sure students came to school through my gate and went to either breakfast or their homeroom. I try to learn as many names as possible and address the students by name, since I know that is important for all students, regardless of where they go to school. I also wish them a good evening or weekend at the end of every day when they return through my gate walking home. During the day, I greet the students in the hallway in between my groups. Although I don’t know all of their names and can’t always talk to them, I can do a “pointer finger” wave. (This is a one fingered wave students understand is a silent wave meaning “hello”. )
My job was to work with low performing or retained kindergarten, first, and second graders using direct instruction reading. In my classes, I enjoy when the students understand a concept or can apply previously unknown knowledge. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and I am so proud of the student or students. When my students show growth, I am delighted that they have mastered the content and are on their way to becoming a successful reader. Do my students have books to practice with at home? Not always. So I copy poems and small books for them to take home to read to parents/grandparents/younger brothers and sisters or cousins.
I also like hearing, “You didn’t pick me up today!” when I have to go to a meeting. This tells me the students missed the class and/or me. Other favorites are when they forget to call me by my name and say, “Mom” or “Mommy” or they give me a hug or a wave at the end of class, going to or from class, in the morning, or the afternoon. That is better than a raise to me, because it shows the students appreciate all I do for them and know I love them.
Will I continue to teach in a Renaissance school? Of course! I would not have it any other way. My students need me and I need them.
Cynthia (Cindy) Harnest just completed her 28th year in Hillsborough county schools. She was the Academic Intervention Specialist at Witter Elementary School and is looking forward to her new journey as a first grade teacher also at Witter. In October of 2016 she achieved National Board renewal in the area of Literacy: Reading and Language Arts. She also has a master’s degree in Reading. She has been married for 36 years to her husband, Jim, and has one son, James, and a Maltese dog, Courtney.