The Best Part About Being A Teacher, To Me

March 17 2015

My name is Adam. I am 28 years old and I was born in Maryland, USA. I studied Criminal Justice at Penn State University and graduated in 2008. Then I spent my early 20's living abroad in Spain, China, Argentina, and Brazil. Three years ago I settled in San Francisco, California and became an English teacher.

I would liken my (or, the ubiquitous) first year teaching experience to learning how to swim by method of being chucked mercilessly into a frigid, choppy, bottomless ocean. And as you drift away, excited to learn or just terrified, you’re not sure which, you barely hear the last words of encouragement you’re going to hear in what will feel like eternities: "Swimming's easy! You'll figure it out eventually! Careful not to drown first! And watch out for the Sharks!”

The students call me Mr. Hurwitz and I hear my name ALL day – both a point of pride and an enormous burden.

I teach 6th grade English at a large public middle school in Oakland, California. Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm, I'm in a classroom with 32 11 and 12 year olds. Right now we're reading The Giver by Lois Lowry and we are loving it. We read a couple chapters together, then we discuss, or we write, or both. Rinse and repeat. For the complete recipe, add:

-Google Chromebooks and nifty educational websites (Schoology, Flocabulary, Quizlet, NoRedInk, TypingClub)

-stickers, stamps, and letter grades

-handwriting practice (seriously, every now and then, they LOVE it)

-music (we bump Spotify in class whenever possible)

-physical movement (A LOT)

-SSR (Sustained Silent Reading, 27 minutes every day after lunch)

and of course...

-laughs, smiles, tears, bandaids, ungodly amounts of kleenex and hand sanitizer, pencil shavings and eraser crumbs, and forgotten sweatshirts

To me, the best part about being a teacher is feeling needed so much...

... By all the students, who need knowledge and discipline and fun and praise and love and support and empathy in order to grow into healthy, happy adults who serve their community.

... By the single student, one in tears because her backpack and lunch bag stolen were from her locker, or one who has trouble making friends, or one who wants me to help her with the book she wrote, or even one who just needs attention so bad because no one at home hugs him, so he stomps around the classroom.

... By a parent, who shows up to my classroom on the verge of tears 45 minutes after I message her to say that her son, who I know well, isn’t focusing in class and is directing some disrespectful language towards me.

... By my colleagues, with whom I share the same students who excel, the same students who struggle, the same physical space, the same lesson plans, the same passion for exhausting and challenging and fulfilling work, the same coffee, and the same Professional Development sessions.

... And by the Oakland community- rich in diversity and natural beauty, but generally malnourished and segregated- which needs role models for its youth.

As a teacher, when I feel needed, I feel honored. When I satisfy other's needs, I feel confident. When I handle a situation with the utmost positivity and conscientiousness and empathy, I feel proud, free even. When I fail or flounder or treat another poorly, I feel deep remorse and embarrassment and frustration.

I'd really like to say thank you for reading, truly. I invite you to respond to my words. As an introvert the most exciting part of writing my own Listserve post is not the opportunity to say something to 24,000 people all over the world, but to hear something back from just a small fraction of them. I'm always in appreciation of others' perspectives, candor, solidarity, and constructive feedback.

Peace and Love, Adam.

Adam Hurwitz
[email protected]
San Francisco, CA

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