By Nicole Droscha
Mason Public Schools
“We are a team, we stick together. We are here to help everyone learn and grow in our classroom.”
I can still hear those words being spoken by my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Frank, nearly 34 years ago. She had no idea how powerful her words would be and how they would shape my view of education.
I heard in her voice and saw in her actions that everyone would be a valued member of our classroom team and have access to an excellent education, no matter their socioeconomic status, color of their skin, religious beliefs, ability level, or gender. Mrs. Frank was discussing how one little boy, who had special needs, wasn’t feeling like he fit in with us. His family was considering leaving our school. My heart broke for him. I couldn’t imagine not loving school! To me, school was the safest and happiest place to be. She spoke about the power of befriending someone who is different and standing up for others even when it meant sacrificing something for yourself.
I knew she was right. I decided to reach out and become his friend, even though it cost me some friendships along the way. I also heard in those words a calling on my life to become what I thought would be the greatest, most fulfilling thing I could become: a teacher. What I didn’t know then was how much courage and dedication this choice would require.
Almost 18 years into my own teaching career in the district where I grew up and was inspired to become a teacher, my mission every day is to encourage and uplift each of my students and colleagues. However, this has become increasingly difficult to do with all that weighs on our education system and on teachers.
With the flurry of deadlines, meetings, new technology, new curriculum, new standards, new tests, and increasing demands for higher test scores, a faster pace, and more accountability for schools and teachers, making time to encourage others is almost impossible.
This school year I will be writing about what it is like to be a third-grade teacher in Michigan during a very turbulent time in education. I hope that by sharing my story other educators will not feel so alone in their struggles trying to be the best educator they can be.
We have been delegated the mighty task of meeting every student’s needs no matter their level, monitoring and addressing their behavior issues, while trying to meet rigorous state standards at a hectic pace using high-stakes testing.
Yet our voices have been almost eliminated from discussions surrounding policies that directly impact our classrooms, which are the learning environments for our students.
We are a team. It truly takes a village to help each student—and educator—be successful, let’s work together. We cannot be afraid to ask for the support we need to help our students and each other. Advocating for our needs as educators is advocating for the needs of our students.