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  • Writer's pictureShelley MacPherson

Southern Tier Life: Lessons Learned

My Job is Simple by Shelley MacPherson

My job is simple.

I work Monday – Friday.

September – June.

No nights.

No weekends.

No holidays.

My job is simple.

That’s what my students will tell you,

“It’s simple! She keeps us safe … and she teaches us stuff.”

I teach third grade; I work with eight-year-olds. I share office space with the class of 2032! We work together to take on the challenge of becoming the change we want to see in ourselves, in our classroom, and far beyond the boundaries of those four brick walls.

It’s an indescribable experience to be in the classroom and to be able to envision no boundaries to learning and growing. It’s a connection to the yet imagined (and the not yet known) that gives teachers the opportunity to impact a future world that we won’t live to see. It’s also an immeasurable responsibility that reaches far beyond the academics of any rubric. The job description is without limit.

On the very first day of school I tell the students that my #1 job is to keep them safe. I’m sure they hear my voice crack when I explain that I would do anything to hold on to that promise. I keep everyone safe and I make it look that easy.

That’s the hard part of my job, preparing for what we don’t yet know and planning for the unexpected.

The academics are the easy part of my job, I know what to expect when I am holding the scripted curriculum manual in my hand. I teach reading and I teach every single reader to question what they read. I teach them to question me. They teach me how to read between the lines.

I teach them how to write their name in cursive on three very specific lines that we casually call the grass, the b-r-o-k-e-n line, and the sky. I do my best to model for them how to reach for the sky. Cursive is no longer in our curriculum; I personally believe it’s an endangered craft and a lifetime skill. I see their interest in learning how to ‘write like that’ and I’m fueled by their interest to make time for this art/life lesson.

I teach them lessons on the reasoning behind learning their times tables. Memorizing isn’t learning. I remind them to learn how to multiply their successes and how to divide their mistakes into learning experiences.

I teach them how to tell time the old-fashioned way. They remind me how fast time passes in our modern world.

I spend my time with them on the floor, in the courtyard outside our classroom door, in the book nook down the hallway, in the earthy nature center, and on the playground.

I invest the time in showing them that kindness really does matter and telling the truth might still get you in trouble but not as much trouble as not being honest.

I teach them the value of respecting themselves and others. They teach me the value of spending time with them on that playground, even when my desk is decorated with deadlines, sticky notes, and piles of paperwork.

I continue to learn a lot about the value of just letting it be (paperwork included), leaving much more time to take advantage of every live moment in our classroom. Sitting on that cold linoleum floor is the coolest place a teacher can be.

So what do we “want- to -be -cool teachers” learn to do with a classroom full of 20 learners who shouldn’t be asked to sit still all day? We learn to be still (if even for a single moment) and we remind ourselves that the paperwork isn’t the work, the people are the priority. The paperwork can wait; the little humans can’t wait.

What do we do with those curious little humans that question our every direction? We encourage them to continue to ask questions; we work with them to help them understand the why of it all. Because, don’t we all want to know why we are expected to learn what you’re asking us to learn? Don’t we all want to understand the purpose of a lesson (in and out of the classroom)?

What about the kids in our classroom who give us answers to questions that can’t be scored with our rubric? ♥ We learn from them. We learn the most from them.

I learn from my learners; they cue me to let the paperwork be until later. The little teachers, cleverly disguised as students (assigned to my path on purpose) remind me that not all answers are meant to be judged by a rubric, a classroom teacher, or anyone else (in or out of the classroom walls).

I’m learning more about teaching every single day, every single new school year, and with every single new learner that walks into the four walls of our classroom family.

It’s simple … when I stop learning, that’s when I’ll stop teaching.

About this Feature

Southern Tier Life's Lessons Learned is a feature that invites educators from the region to share about their teaching experience. If you're interested in contributing to this feature, please email for details.


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