One of my pet peeves in education - as my friends and colleagues have probably tired of hearing - is that people often forget that children are human beings.  In fact, this exists outside the field of education as well.  I have seen parents - very loving parents - mock their child's stress over completing homework on nights she had soccer practice and saying things like, "Imagine being stressed over homework.  I wish I still had that same kind of stress."  Of course, minutes later, the mother started telling us about how stressed she was over getting all the brownies done for the bake sale while meeting a work deadline. The mother couldn't even see that she and her daughter were feeling the exact same feelings.  Kids are people too.
This point is pretty basic to me.  I know how I feel when I've had a late start to my morning, when I've had a fight with my husband, or when I am overwhelmed with work.  I know this makes me edgy, a little snippy and overly sensitive so I understand that my students will feel the same way also.  I work hard to find the underlying cause of their eye-roll, their extreme silliness (accompanied by somersault on the rug during read-aloud) or their "random" tears. And I realize that there will be many occasions when I will never figure out why they are acting in a less than positive way.  But I will give them extra love anyways.

Before you roll your eyes at me and think that I am writing a self-congratulatory post, let me get to the point of this piece.  I am really good at reading children and understanding when they have rough days.  I am not so good at doing this for other teachers in my building.  When a kid gets overly chatty during a classroom discussion, I patiently talk to them after class.  When a teacher does this at a staff meeting, I get annoyed and sigh.  When a kid seems kind of grouchy, I try to figure out what is going on in his or her life.  When a teacher does this, I wonder why they stay in a profession they seem to hate.  

I know, I know!  I. Am. A. Hypocrite.  What's worse is that I pride myself on being a sensitive teacher, a nurturer, a giver.  And yet, I can't do it with my colleagues.  Why is that?  Do I expect adults to "behave" better?  Do I expect them to always be positive and mature?  Do I expect teachers to keep their personal lives hidden and wear a constant smile?  In essence, have I forgotten that teachers are human also?

Is that teacher who has been angry with her students all year going through a divorce?  Is the one grading papers at a staff meeting doing his best to not explode while listening to professional development he thinks is useless?  Is the teacher rolling her eyes at her colleague's amazing student work just envious and overwhelmed because she doesn't think she can ever do that?  These are the questions I should be asking instead of automatically dismissing them as bad teachers.  

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am still going to be a bit judgmental here.  After all, the actions of these teachers affect a whole crew of little impressionable people.  Every. Single.  Day.  But is my negative attitude helping?  No.  And if I really care about their students, then I need to start by helping that teacher.  How?  That is tonight's question for me to ponder.  Maybe through a coffee date, an offer to show someone how to use the new grading software or just listening...maybe through a whole lot more.  I don't really have any answers yet...but I am glad that I have started thinking about this.  
Today was the first day of school.  And no matter how many first days I have, I am never quite prepared for it.  Ever.  I am not prepared for how nervous I will feel.  Or how sleepless the night before will be.  Or how frazzled I will feel in the morning.  Or how exhausted I will feel in the afternoon.  However, I am always prepared for the fact that I will miss the previous class.  Tremendously.

Today was no different.  I watched my former students walk to their new classes down the hall, stopping for hugs along the way and my heart silently screamed, "Come back!  I've learned so much!  We can have so much fun together!" But my mouth just smiled and whispered, "You're going to love fourth grade!"

And then arrived the brand new sparkly third graders!  Shiny.  Almost a little too shiny.  Fresh-faced.  Why weren't they a little dirty and mussed up?  Eager and chatty and full of life!  They are not last year's kids.  Nor should they try to be - no matter how much I miss those now fourth grade kids at this moment.  They need to keep being themselves, their marvelous little selves. 

I will eventually get with the program.  A shared comment about a favorite book, a girl eager to share her math strategy, a boy taking his writer's notebook out to recess...soon I will be smitten.  And I will come up with nicknames for them.  And they will learn all about my family.  And we will feel as if we have always been together.  I know this is coming and this is what keeps me going in that first month when I miss those deep relationships with last year's class. 

Teaching is a funny thing.  In business, you take your time and build relationships so you can have clients for life.  Remember when Gap started Gap Kids and Baby Gap?  For life.  And that's just for t-shirts and jeans.  Yet here we are with teaching, with students, with human relationships and we only get 9 short months.  Broken up by holidays.  We build a community, a family, and we learn and share and care together.  And right when we think we have hit that incredible point in the year...yup, summer break and a whole new group of kids. 

But we keep coming back.  Perhaps it's an addiction we have to developing and building relationships with amazing young minds.  Or maybe it's because we have found the eternal fountain of youth - a chance to remain young year after year.  I don't know the answer but it's something I will be mulling over this I get to know the 20 fabulous little people that meandered and bolted and traipsed through the door today.