***This story was originally published before the pandemic. But we love it so much, we felt it was worth sharing again!***
It’s no secret that teachers are the real unsung heroes in our lives. They’re the ones who not only keep our children for more hours in a day than we even see them, but they pour their hearts and souls into every student that sits before them. And Y’all, these precious humans who mold the minds of our tiny humans, they carry a weight that is far too large for anyone to shoulder.
Katie Pearson carries that weight.
In a now-viral Facebook post, the first grade teacher from Fort Worth, Texas spoke to the guilt she carries on behalf of every student she encounters.
“Want me to be honest? Today was rough. Like I don’t cry and I cried 5 times today,” she wrote, adding that the overwhelming day left her wanting to crawl into 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 [like] if not every one 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 non fiction level 16 with the proper comprehension and text to self connection. You feel the weight of their future on your shoulders.”
But on this particular day, it was in the moments between the intense tears and crying when Katie came to a realization:
“Well today I realized something that most educators won’t agree with…It’s okay if my students leave my classroom NOT reading and writing on level.”
Her reckoning came from none other than a 6-year-old and a box of Ziploc bags.
Katie says near the end of the day, she found herself face-to-face with the reality that is her responsibility as a first grade teacher—and it’s not reading levels.
One of her students approached her holding a box of Ziploc bags he had gotten specially for her.
Confused, Katie thanked her student, then asked what the bags were for.
“Miss Pearson,” he said, “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.”
Katie was undone by this little boy’s compassion, and all at once, it brought her role as a teacher into crystal clear perspective:
“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 non-fiction 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.”
Katie says that box of Ziploc bags meant more to her than an entire class reading at grade level.
“Anyone can teach them to read but not everyone will teach them to care.”
Amen to that sister! Give a shout to a teacher in your life today. They are carrying a burden far greater than anyone should have to endure.