Hedreich Nichols

I Am What I AM

Every year sees it’s academic superstars, those students who are focused, organized and gifted at the nuts and bolts of learning in a classroom setting. There must have been something in the water in 2008 because I am seeing some phenomenal 11 year olds. I appreciate all of my kids for their own unique strengths, but these kids have my admiration for a different reason. I want to be them when I grow up. Of course, in my 14th year in education, I should consider myself a grown-up. And I’m pretty sure I am, in all of the important ways. But while I am darn good at adulting, I have not yet stopped aspiring to be more grown-up. I am the teacher who turns in lesson plans on time, keeps a (mostly) neat desk, and I could pass a gradebook check on any given day. But I was not born this way. Third grade me spent many minutes nose-in-corner for having forgotten something—again. Or for having a messy backpack—again. Or for losing a paper—again. Of course third grade me in today’s school system would have been given “paperwork”, an IEP, or a 504, and a cool nickname like 2e. But it was a different time. I was a gifted student but “absent-minded” and would have “lost my head if it wasn’t attached”, as I so often heard. Since we are always really just bigger, (hopefully) more capable versions of our 3rd grade selves, I look at my superstars in the room and see my own growth potential. When Amerie was asked how she managed to write in her planner and complete her warm-up consistently every day before most kids had even pulled out their pencils, her answer was simple. “I don’t entertain foolishness”. Drop mic. GEEZ, I want that focus!

My computer lab,
my student’s shiny backpack and edge gel!

Every morning, forty minutes before class begins, I park and say hello to the librarian as she and her daughter pull in. I can tell she was Amie when she was a kid. She moves towards the school while I wish the back of her head a nice day and rummage through the back seat to pick one of 5 pairs of shoes that will match my outfit AND not have me limping out of school today. I walk toward campus, stopping briefly to mention the climate action my 7th graders are working on to the campus officer who leaves his motor running the whole 45 minutes he’s there. Shaking my head, I start off again towards the school building. In the distance I see the librarian already entering the building as I hug my kid goodbye before he goes off to his side of campus. Then I stop to ask Ms. Willis something about Fall Festival because, well, sometimes a conversation is so much better than an email. On my way to the MS building once again, I stop quickly to remind a student that he needs to come to tutoring. Finally inside the building, with 25 minutes to go, I say hello to the Spanish teacher in my new Duo Lingo Spanish, and beam at her compliments about my current ability to use lifesaving phrases like El Español es muy divertido. While I’m there we share a concern about a student because, as you know, a conversation is so much better than an email. Once again I head toward my room but remember to stop in to the Special Education department to set up a meeting about something. It’ll only take a sec. While I’m there, I say hi to Dobby, the pet bearded dragon who smiles at me when he hears my voice. No really, he does. I head to my room while greeting another two teachers, but this time I keep it moving. Class starts in 18 minutes and I still have fairy lights, lamps and a slow computer-projector combo to boot up. I finally make it to my class, get everything turned on and wonder why I don’t have time to run to the powder room before class. And why my coffee is cold. And why I didn’t get to change the date on the board. I got here 40 minutes early, after all. I am obviously not Amerie. Or Ollie, Figgy or Denny or any of the 11 year old superstars I am privileged to teach. I remind myself, however, that who I am is who I’m meant to be, in all my imperfection. We teachers sometimes forget that our schools don’t need perfect teachers, just teachers perfectly willing and ready to inspire learning.

If you know teachers who have forgotten this important truth, tag them and remind them.