When a college instructor pulled me aside and suggested I become a teacher, I winced.
“You’d be great!” she told me, but I wasn’t convinced.
As a child, I gathered my teddy bears and dolls around me in a circle to coach them in spelling, writing, and math. I gave them grades. They loved me and idolized me.
But let’s be real. The classroom in today’s world is nothing like my childhood imaginings. The students don’t sit and listen attentively. In fact, most of them do just the opposite; they do whatever they can to distract the teacher. This means talking incessantly, daydreaming through class, ignoring assignments, and challenging authority.
My professor thought I wanted to deal with that? Think again! Anything but running herd on a bunch of Wily Coyotes who would view me as the Roadrunner. I walked away from the conversation shaking my head.
Fifteen years after that conversation, I find myself at the front of a room, boxed in by four pale green walls, pacing on 20-year-old carpet, and attempting to ignore 34 squeaky teenage voices all mumbling their dissent when I assign at-home reading. I love it. I despise it. I feel inspired. I feel discouraged.
I have the heart of a teacher.
Just last week, my mom startled me with a statement, “That’s why you love Elizabeth and that show, right? You want to be her.” At first, I was offended. I want to be me, I began to argue, but then I reflected more deeply on what she was saying.
She was referring to my favorite television show, When Calls the Heart. Elizabeth Thatcher
is a young socialite who gives up her
privileged upbringing to become a mentor and teacher to the children of Hope Valley, a small mining-turned-lumber-town in Western Canada in the early 1900s. She is a powerhouse of love and kindness, a teacher who challenges her students and their parents by learning their stories, understanding their physical and emotional weaknesses. She gets into their world and doesn’t expect them to always conform to hers. Through her acts of kindness and understanding, she earns their respect and love in return.
Maybe I do want to be Elizabeth, if such a character exists in real life.
In the most recent episode, which aired on March 12, Elizabeth’s world came
tumbling down before her eyes when she discovered she had been replaced. To her utter shock, her beloved students and her purpose in life have just been handed over to another teacher, without any warning.
This is also one of my greatest fears. What if my students turn on me? What if I fall short of my superior’s expectations? Will I have loved my students and have poured into them everything I have only to enter the classroom one day to find the very foundation pulled out from under me? How could I deal with that?
The next episode of my beloved show is titled The Heart of a Teacher. I expect we will see Elizabeth’s true heart for her students but also catch glimpses of the hearts of those children she has mentored for the past three years. What I hope to see is what I know from real life: that the heart of a teacher is conflicted and complicated but full of love for those faces who look to us everyday, from every walk of life, in need of guidance, hope, and love.
To my teacher friends, if you haven’t seen this show, I challenge you to watch this Sunday (9/8C on Hallmark Channel). Watch and see how these writers and actors interpret The Heart of a Teacher. Then, come back here and tell me what you think. As you watch, do you see yourself in The Heart of a Teacher?