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Filtering by Category: Life

The Teacher in Me

Tabitha Helms

Every week, we go to the Wave Waterpark for summer camp. I'm not usually a water person--meaning I prefer to sit out in the sun and work on my tan rather than immersing myself in cold water, but the weather has been so warm that I've actually hopped in the Lazy River with my 1st grade girls each time. I usually take a while to do that though--getting my sun on for the first half of the day before I'm ready to branch out and cool off. This week, I was sitting pleasantly as you please on a sunny bench, watching my charges play in the shallow end. I was in my swimsuit, hat on, sunglasses on, not yet ready to take on the cold water. Suddenly there was a stream of water aimed in my direction, and I gasped in surprise. Now, the Wave has some pretty cool squirt guns. They look like squished up fabric when they're empty with a pointed tip, and when filled they become a long tube that lets out a steady stream when you put your finger on the clasp to release it. Here's my deal with squirt guns: sure, it's fun to squirt unsuspecting people, but you need to at least make sure they're already wet or in the water. You don't spray someone that's suntanning. That's just rude.

I realize not everyone knows my rule though, so I politely walked over to the two junior high age boys, and asked them if they would please not squirt me again. It's okay to squirt people that are already wet, but if they're not, then they shouldn't do that. I sat back down in my sunny heaven. Five minutes later, guess who got shot with a steady stream of water? Yep, you guessed it. Me. I didn't do anything at first except look in their direction. These clever young men had proceeded to duck in cover behind the ledge of the pool so I wouldn't see them or guess that they had been the culprits. Right, do I look like I'm stupid? I kept staring until they peeked their little eyeballs over the ledge to see if I was looking. We made eye contact; they knew that they weren't fooling anybody. I marched over to them and held out my hand.

"Give it to me." The boy that had the gun started swimming away from me underwater so he couldn't hear my pronouncement. His friend was stationary and answered back, "What?" "Give me the squirt gun." "It's not mine." "Tell your friend to give it to me." "Why?" "Because I asked you not to do it, and you did it anyway, and that was very disrespectful, so you need to give it to me." His friend was halfway across the pool by now, and this kid began swimming backwards to catch up with him and get away from the indignant 5'5" lady with the attitude. I marched around to the other side of the pool where they were, trying to think of a plan of action--some sort of realistic threat I could give them to scare them into not bothering me anymore. I decided to pull the parent card.

"Where are your parents?" "What?" "Where are your parents?" "What parents? We don't have parents." "Well if you're old enough to be here without parents, then you're old enough to be responsible when someone asks you not to do something, you DON'T do it. If it happens again, I WILL have the lifeguard take it away from you. I'm NOT kidding. Am I understood?" Silence. The friend said, "Yes." I glared at the kid with the squirt gun who was treading water in sultry silence. "Am I understood?" "Okay," he mumbled. "AM I UNDERSTOOD?" "Okay!" "Thank you."

I walked back to my bench wondering what had come over me to be so bold like that. If they hadn't done it out of spite, and if I hadn't been at work where I naturally have my teacher hat on, then I wouldn't have said anything. I would have simmered on the inside like I did at my last trip to Disneyland instead of speaking up.

I've been reading a book about be an assertive Christian. There was a little quiz at the end that questioned me about different situations in which my reaction is passive, assertive, or aggressive. For the majority of situations, I behave assertively. However, a close second place was the passive reaction. In public or social settings like the one I was just in, I choose passivity--believing that my feelings aren't important enough to deserve the respect of others. But I don't think that's right. I should respect myself enough to believe that God created me as an important human being. My voice does matter, and I'm only hurting myself by keeping things tucked away inside.

I was saddened to talk to some of my 4th grade girls later as I tread water for my 15 minutes of cardio, arm, and leg exercise. They were asking me what the boys had done to make me call them out.

One of them said, "After you left they said, 'So what? The lifeguard would just give it back anyway.' I told them, 'You should listen to her. She's a teacher.' He said, "So?" and I told him, 'So you should listen to what she tells you.' Then he called me a bad name." "He did??" She paused, hesitant to say it. She cupped her hands around her mouth to whisper to me, "He called me a stupid a**. I think that's a bad name; I don't even know what it means."

I was livid. I was ready to go for round three. NOBODY calls my kids names like that! I tried to take a deep breath while treading water (hard to do) to calm myself. My sweet student told me that she ended the conversation by saying something along the lines of, "Well, you should listen because God cares about you and would want you to do the right thing," and then she swam away.

The hot air inside of me puffed out, and I told her that that was the best response she could've given. After I had originally talked to the boys, I sat on my bench wondering about where the line was between teaching children to be respectful of others and just showing God's love. I think it is loving to instruct someone in doing the right thing. Especially as kids get older, I've become very burdened by the fact that younger kids look up to them and watch their behavior--mimicking them. It's important for them to know how to make good decisions. Many of that aged children just don't seem to care. They come with their attitudes and their disrespect and it doesn't matter to them that others look up to their example. It's not a burden they are aware of, so they do their own thing--acting to impress and be cool in their confident put-downs. I was wondering if how I spoke to them showed God's love at all, and I thought about what I could do the next time if it happened again as I prayed that they would understand the love of God in their lives so they wouldn't feel the need to act in the way that they did.

I didn't have the opportunity to speak with them again, but I'm so thankful that our school and our kids parents have taught them about God's love enough to encourage them to spread that message even to a stranger at the Wave.

Why I Want to be a Teacher

Tabitha Helms

I'm sitting inside on a rainy day, filling out my credential program applications. San Diego State is making me include a personal narrative, along with a million other things. But I thought my essay was good enough to share, so you can all get inside my head for a bit and find out why I want to be a teacher. :) Enjoy! Why I Want to be a Teacher By Tabitha Neal

A majority of college students change their majors several times throughout their years of study. My own college path was no different. I began as a music major, desiring to woo the world with my vocal talent. Two years passed, and I had declared a liberal studies major with a focus in elementary education, reducing my music major to a minor instead. Switching career paths halfway through was intimidating. Circumstances required the change, but I wondered if I really had what it took to be a teacher. Was this new career chosen simply for a love of children, or was it something deeper?

Many young adults have visions of changing the world. I am certainly no different. I want my life to mean something; I want to touch the lives of the people I come into contact with and make a difference. When I think back to the people who touched my own life, my teachers are the ones who come to mind. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Grubacich, made school likable; she made me feel like I could achieve anything. She built up my self-confidence and made me feel needed. I have loved learning ever since. Mrs. Anderson helped mold me into the organized person I am today. Mr. Weatherly taught me to think mathematically and visually by playing chess. Mrs. Burnworth sharpened my grammar and pushed me to pass my AP English exams for college credit. Dr. Tommerup taught me how to enjoy biology and how to make science a fun experience. I firmly believe that the person I am today has been shaped by each of these teachers.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hold job positions and volunteer in multicultural focused environments. Specifically, I worked for a restaurant chain, a private school summer camp, the office of Diversity Outreach at MiraCosta College, an accounting firm, various church groups and community theatres, different families needing childcare, and an outreach program seeking to encourage students to pursue higher education. In these environments I had the opportunity to work with people of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles. I learned how to be professional, how to be objective, and how to seek common ground with each person. I enjoy learning about different cultures. I think it is wonderful to live in a place where we have so many different groups and identities. It is something to be celebrated.

Personally, the opportunities that I feel have prepared me the most for my future as a teacher are my volunteer work at Landell Elementary, my job at California State University, Fullerton, and my participation in music and theatre. At Landell, I was able to take a central role in teaching the class by reading the students books, giving spelling tests, reviewing language arts, as well as observing an amazing third grade teacher. At CSUF, one part of our job was giving classroom presentations. Being in front of a group of students and teaching them about my topic gave me an incredible amount of self-confidence in a teaching setting. Finally, I have been in musical theatre shows, worked at theatres, and taught voice and piano. I have been saddened by the way art programs are being cut from schools. I think my background in it will allow me to implement the arts in my classroom and give my students an appreciation for them.

Certainly people can travel to other countries, start up important businesses, run for office, and raise money for those in need in order to change the world. However, I believe that the best way to change the world is by starting with a child. Sadly, at home many children do not receive the support and encouragement needed to push them to succeed. What if they never come into contact with someone that expresses joy in their worth as an individual, who sees their potential, and makes an effort to invest in them? Who will they become in the future? We need people who believe in us. I know that I can invest in these children in my classroom and change their lives so that they can go on to change the lives of others around them. Change begins with one person, and I believe that person is me, their teacher.