I remember the first time I saw Notus Elementary. An old but small white building set in a rural community with nothing but farmlands for miles. It was my first teaching experience and just looking at where I was in that moment, I knew I was in for a culture shock.
I was raised in Boise Idaho, a small city located about 30 miles away from Notus. Anybody who is from Idaho can tell you that Boise is a place of its own when it comes to the state. There are tall buildings, charming neighborhoods, a growing cultural mix, and a wonderful school program. I had worked and student taught in many schools in Boise and it really is an ideal district for an educator. You will find parents who love to be involved in school programs, funds for special education programs and reading specialist, students who value their education and come to school healthy and ready to learn. And here I found myself in front of Notus Elementary in small town Notus Idaho; it was my first teaching job offer and I took it.
Notus Elementary is a low-income school that was built in the 1920s and I can honestly tell you not much had changed. Many of the students who attend Notus have parents who have to work hard just to provide a meal for their families and often come to school tired, hungry and wearing the same clothes for days on end. We also have a lot of students who have behavior problems, are on IEPs, or English is their second language. Because of our school’s lack of funds we cannot afford to have a solid special education program, reading specialist, and tutors. Every teacher works double to provide these services to their students as well as differentiating for the other students’ needs in their class.
I remember the first time I met my Kindergarten class, twenty smiling but nervous faces looking back at me ready for their first experience of school. Only a few went to preschool so the idea of school was new for them. As the days went on I began to learn more about my new class and what their stories were. I had one student with Autism who, whenever he got frustrated, threw objects, ran around the room, and made repetitive noises. There was one time he was upset he had to do math, when I finally settled him down and got him to focus, I turned my head for one second and he grabbed a handful of crayons and threw them at me. You could have heard a pen drop in that class, and then there were tears, a lot of tears. From the students, not me!
Another one of my students has been in and out of foster care due to family issues since she was three. She is only six years old and has been through four foster families and two different schools; it simply breaks my heart. She has had to grow up fast and it shows because she is a spit fire. When she is mad, the whole town knows and it takes a circus to calm her down. But she also has a smile that would make your day and you can tell school is a place that she feels safe. These are just two of the many situations we deal with on a regular basis and to be honest it has made me love my job more.
As an educator I realized that no matter what a child goes through in life, no matter how angry and exhausted they can make you feel one day, each of your students deserve the best education they can get. You may not have up-to-date curriculum or enough supplies; so be creative even if it takes a little extra time. Your students are worth it. Each child has so much potential in life and it is an educator’s job to help that student find their potential.
With the school year coming to an end I see how much my students have grown. Most came in not knowing how to spell their name, not knowing how to count to ten, some not even knowing how to hold a pencil. Now they love to write and make up stories. They love to find new words in books and to sound them out, and most importantly they love to learn.
“The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” — Joseph Campbell