“I became a teacher for the money and the fame,” said no teacher ever. I saw that on a t-shirt once. Teachers understand long before beginning their careers that there’s not a lot of money in the profession. Money is never the incentive for choosing a teaching career. We’re in it for the children, for the impact we could make, and for the love of teaching.

Those of us who choose the teaching profession usually do so with the hope that we’ll share in changing the world, shaping lives to ultimately make a difference. We go into this profession with dreams of grandeur wanting to be our students’ heroes, guardians, and advocates.

This responsibility sometimes becomes a burden, and can lead to burnout. It takes clarity, along with a lot of energy, to care for, parent, and let alone teach 24–33 students per year — not to mention dealing with the pressure of being accountable for all the federal- and state-mandated educational requirements.

Along with all of this understanding comes the upside of being responsible for these children on a daily basis. It’s part of the reason this career path can be so fulfilling and rewarding. Think about it — we have the ability to shape young lives by filling their brains with knowledge, sparking their curiosities, encouraging their desires to learn more, broadening their viewpoints, and mentoring them, hopefully aiding in helping them achieve a promising future with immense opportunities

It takes a lot to be a teacher.

And it’s good that we all have each other, because this job can be mentally exhausting. We face a lot of challenges as teachers. We encounter great frustration when we can’t get our kids to achieve according to standardized testing, or when they’re academically stuck. So we pull together and help each other. Most of us teaching 20 plus years still see the necessity of supporting, mentoring and guiding each other in teaching and still work together to lift each other up, celebrate our professional achievements, encourage each other to grow professionally and to celebrate the academic growth of our students.

The truth is this: I went into teaching thinking I was going to be the changing force in children’s lives. To an extent, I think this belief was necessary in order to lead me into the profession and giving me reason to shape my life as a teacher. I would hope that all of you share this same belief. But I quickly realized that my students have far more to teach me about life than I could ever teach them about academics.

Children need to be seen, heard, and valued. I love the quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s so true! Our words as adults carry so much weight for a child. We must be a part of the positivity they need to grow. That cheesy cliche rings true: “The children are our future.” I hope that you all would embrace the idea that it is your job not only to teach them, but to see the pure grace within them and honor it — and to point it out to them in case they didn’t see it for themselves.

And I hope that people outside of education could look through the lens of an elementary teacher, and to perhaps understand the hidden lives of children around us. Perhaps they will begin to see what I see: the innocence of children and how that innocence they carry allows their light to shine forth to the world. We can have a greater impact if we choose to see and nurture it.

My students are my muses. I don’t think as their teacher I could ever give them as much as they’ve given me. When I began teaching I considered myself an observer, watching my students and those of my colleagues from a distance, at arms’ length, separate from them. I felt my sole purpose was to simply teach them reading, writing, literacy, and critical thinking. Now, it’s so much more than that. Try and look through the eyes of a child. They see life differently than we do. My students have taught me how important it is to slow down and take the time to see the beauty all around us, to pay more attention to details and to appreciate their stage of life known as childhood. Tapping into my own inner child has brought laughter, silliness, lightheartedness, the ability to be in the present moment, and awareness of beauty life has to offer. When we’re in “that place” your impact on them as their teacher is so much greater.

So don’t forget to run on the playground. Sing all the songs. Laugh at the absurdity of life. Aren’t these the keys to happiness?

And in the midst of the adversity we see on a daily basis in our nation and around the world, which affects our students, our children, and ourselves as adults, remember what a huge impact you have on the youth of our nation as a teacher.