I lie to children. Monday through Friday, September to June, at some point during the school day, I lie to children just entering their double-digit years.
Maybe “lie” is too harsh a word. I fool, I act, I entertain. I persuade, I cajole, I influence.
I read with an excitement I don’t feel about Father Serra and the establishment of the California Missions. I pretend to listen with interest as a student recounts a video game experience. I bite my tongue and don’t tell a child I’m glad I only have to be her teacher until June.
I “create” an honest statement of praise to begin each parent/teacher conference. I diplomatically tell a parent that their child has leadership qualities, meaning they’ve become the “mean, popular kid.” I tell a parent their child has artistic tendencies, meaning your child is drawing “Angry Birds” during lessons.
Upon returning from a one week Thanksgiving break, I’m met with hugs and echoes of “I missed you.” When asked, I tell students I missed them too. But I lie. It’s not that I didn’t miss a particular student, it’s that I didn’t miss my job - teaching this group of students. Because I’m not just teaching. I’m mothering. I’m counseling. I’m feeding. I’m
reminding about untied shoelaces, encouraging a child to take a jacket outside to ward against the chill in the air. I’m teaching the importance of “please” and “thank you,” and I’m teaching how to win and lose graciously.
And, I confess, I do things and say things that no teaching-credential program would approve of. I am sarcastic - “Thank you for waiting so quietly.” I use guilt - “Go apologize to the office staff for being noisy as we walked by.” I try to shame my students with, “I’m so disappointed in you.” And I hope flattery will bring more of the desired behavior - “You’re too smart to need reminders about how to walk in a line.”
I am the hugging teacher. The one that greets her class each morning with, “Good morning, loves.” I am the nurturing teacher, the one who draws hearts on the board, to send my students love while they’re taking a test. I do it because it’s the only way I know how to teach.
And I confess, some children are harder to love than others. Some children are much more difficult to appreciate than others. Some children scare me; my future is, to a certain extent, in their hands.
I confess that some days I count down the hours until the final bell. I confess that by the time March rolls around, I’m counting down the days to spring break. And upon returning from spring break, I’m counting down the days to summer vacation.
I confess that teaching is harder than I ever thought it would be. I confess that, after twelve years, I fantasize about quitting my job.