“Well today I realized something that most educators won’t agree with... Want me to be honest? Today was rough. Like I don’t cry and I cried 5 times today. I was ready to crawl in a hole. Sometimes or most of the time, as a teacher you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You feel if not everyone of your kids leaves reading and writing on level...that you have done a disservice to them. You feel like you not only failed your students, but the parents, the next teachers, the administrators, etc. You feel like a failure because you didn’t read every day with every student (which is impossible). You feel like a failure because not every student showed huge academic gain. You feel like you shouldn’t be a teacher because your classrooms academic data doesn’t look like the classroom across the hall. You feel like you have set a kid up to fail because they didn’t read a nonfiction level 16 with the proper comprehension and text to self-connection. You feel the weight of their future on your shoulders.
B ut today, reality hit me at the end of the day straight in the face. Reality hit me by a 6-year-old holding a box of Ziplocs.
“Miss Pearson. I have you something.”
She hands me this box.
“Thank you so much! What are they for?”
“Miss Pearson before Christmas you said you were out of Ziploc bags at home. I saw your sandwich and chips in the same bag. Nobody needs that. That’s gross. Plus, when we need something, you get it. When we lose our glue, you may not be happy but you get us another one. Or when Joe* eats his pencils, you tell him it’s wrong but you still give him more. You told us that if we love people, we show them. You said real leaders show people. I just want to show you.”
At this point, I was sobbing for the 5th time. Why? Because yes I care if they read but today I realized it's okay if they cannot read and write at an unrealistic level because when they leave my classroom, they leave better than they came. It’s okay if my kids can’t retell every nonfiction book and make text to world connections because they leave with a tender heart. Sure, the world needs better readers and writers....but our world really needs softer hearts, eager hearts, and willing hearts. Our world needs kids who observe more and learn from it. Our world needs more compassion. So my kids may not all be on level when they leave me...but they all leave me knowing they can be better and that they have the potential within to make this world better.
So I’d rather have a class leave with a heart that loves others than with the ability to read a DRA 16. Because those Ziploc bags mean more to me than an entire class on grade level. Anyone can teach them to read but not everyone will teach them to care."
After a long day of teaching first-graders at Blue Haze Elementary, Katie Pearson took to social media to post about a victory she had experienced as a teacher that day. After posting the paragraphs above to Facebook, she went to bed around 10:30 p.m. that Wednesday evening.
When she woke up the next morning, she remembers checking her phone and finding an unusually high number of notifications on Facebook. Over the next few days, Katie’s phone continued to be flooded with notifications as a result of her post.
“I was really caught off guard,” says Pearson. “I remember telling my boss on Friday (two days later) that I had 500 shares and I joked about it going viral.”
Since the evening of January 9, the post has accumulated approximately 160 thousand reactions, 78 thousand shares and 17 thousand comments.
Initially, Katie expressed how the sheer volume of messages, including positive and negative comments, was a bit overwhelming. In fact, she mentions that the first few days following the post were actually a negative experience for her.
“I got lots of hateful messages,” says Katie. “But, in turn, with all the negative, there was a lot of positive. I got messages like ‘I am so glad you shared this. This made me see Jesus in a new way’ or I had a teacher even say ‘I was going to quit education. Thank you so much for your inspiration.’”
Katie is only in her second year of teaching at Blue Haze but has already been recognized for her impact as an educator in the classroom. Katie won “Teacher of the Year” her first year teaching at Blue Haze.
In Katie’s first year teaching, she believes that she may have had one of the most difficult students she will have during the course of her career. “The teacher who previously had this student cried and wanted to quit,” says Katie. “In my first year, I felt like the Lord said you need him.” Katie approached administration and requested to have the student transferred to her classroom.
“No one saw what he could be,” she says. “People only saw statistics and demographics. I felt like in that moment, God gave me a vision, a picture of who he could be. I saw hope even though the world saw despair.”
After the student was transferred to Katie’s classroom, he continued to show aggression to both Katie and his fellow classmates for the first few months. However, it was when Katie began to eat lunch with him and make an effort to establish a relationship with him that things began to turn.
“He became a different person,” says Katie. “If that student could come the distance that he came, I truly believe that any student has the power to grow if we see the hope.”
While it was a critical point for her student, it was also a moment of revelation for Katie. She mentions the transformation that took place in that student’s life reminded her of the transformation through salvation that occurred in her life.
“I almost feel like it was the Lord telling me my life through my eyes. When I met the Lord, I became a completely different person. It gives you purpose knowing that if God saw hope in me, then I can see hope in others.”
For Katie, teaching is built on the foundation of relationship. “Life changing learning is connected to life changing relationships,” says Katie. “At the end of the day, if those kids don’t know that you love them, they’re not going to respect you. Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”
Looking back on her own experience in the educational system, she remembers the impact of certain teachers in her life including professors at her alma mater, SAGU.
“Outside of the classroom, the best thing that SAGU ever gave me was people. I felt like SAGU not only provided me with relationships that were foundational and helped me succeed but also presented me with opportunities to put that learning into action.”
As a dedicated follower of Christ, Katie makes an effort to demonstrate Christ’s love to all of her students.
“Students are more than statistics. They are more than data,” said Katie. She believes that the influence of her faith impacts the way she interacts with her students every day.
“I know that the Lord is working even when I don’t see it. The days I feel like I can’t do this… I have to remember that God has called me to this, and so there is no other option.”
“I pray for each of my kids before they ever walk into the room. They need God even if they don’t understand that. My love obviously has bounds, but if I have God’s love, then even when those students are throwing chairs and saying hateful things, I am going to love them the way God loves me. It gives me purpose each day. “
At only 26 years old, Katie certainly has a bright future ahead of her as she continues to not only educate the next generation but instill values in the classroom.
“I am excited for the day that students come back and say because of you, I didn’t give up. Because of you, I continued that path. Because of you, I tried my best… Because of you.”