Every day that I log on to social media, I see stories about the droves of teachers walking away. Financial strain. Behaviors are out of control. Parental support is missing. No one listens to what I need from this career, say teachers to anyone and everyone who will listen.
They’re not wrong. It has been a tough couple of years. But what I don’t see are the stories about the teachers who will come back to their classrooms with smiling faces in the fall ready to continue making a difference despite all of the challenges. In fact, the majority of us are choosing to stay, choosing to focus on the best parts of the profession and choosing to remember why we ended up in a classroom in the first place.
I have always been a driven person, even when I was younger. I have always tried to do my best to succeed. Some would say that my stubbornness wouldn’t let me accept no for an answer. This hasn’t changed through my teaching career. Leading up to the pandemic I was always the first to say, “Let me do that!” I would apply for any leadership position and opportunity to have an impact on curriculum and instruction. I tell you this because now that we are coming to the end of the second full school year in a pandemic, I am tired. And I am not racing to sign up for all of the extras. But I also am not going anywhere.
I come to school with the hope of a brand new day. The hope is that my 23 students will listen and be excited to learn. When they say things like, “Mrs. Landry, I wish you were a part of my family” or “You make me want to learn and be at school,” or simply “I love you! You’re the best teacher!” I remember my “why.” When my toughest students show me their excitement by saying, “I had the best day because I made good choices!” my teacher heart melts, and I know I can keep being here for them.
These are children who started kindergarten and then, in March, had to learn from home. In first grade, they were virtual, hybrid and in-person with masks. Now in second grade, this is their first full year of in-person school. It has been a learning experience. They have had to learn how to “do” school.
I have tried my hardest to make their year the best year ever! I started off in August by bringing in tadpoles so they could watch them turn into frogs. Eventually, we released them and watched them hop away. In October, we carved a pumpkin, measured it, made guesses about what would happen as the pumpkin rotted, and we watched it turn back into the soil and start a new sprout. We read Harry Potter and dressed up as our favorite characters. Their excitement was priceless.
Starting in January, we challenged ourselves by researching our favorite famous person and writing about them. We dressed up as our famous people in a Wax Museum. Many of my students began second grade not reading or writing. They would cry and say, “I can’t do this!” So for them to step outside of their comfort zones and present, I was so amazed and hopeful.
Through all these moments, there have been ups and downs. Some people have asked what my plans are for next year. I say I love teaching, and I’m staying here for the kids and the impact I make. I know this might not be enough for some teachers, but I hope that it is.
By sharing my story, I want to change the narrative about the profession. Many teachers are staying and doing their best to engage students in this ever-changing world. My vision is for all educators to hang in there. Things will get better, and we are moving in the right direction. We just have to change our mindsets and show New Mexico that teachers are staying because there are many great things about being a teacher, too.
Kimberly Landry is a National Board Certified teacher and a State Ambassador with the New Mexico Public Education Department. She is also a mentor teacher in her district.