This is Megan’s 5th speech from the Competent Communicator manual: “Your Body Speaks”. Megan is to use stance, body movement, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact that illustrate and enhance her verbal message. Body language should help the audience visualize the speaker’s points and overall message. In this speech, Megan will reflect on her time teaching high school math and physics for the past three years.

Imagine your first day of high school: fresh notebooks, wide eyes, a little awkward tension and a lot of excitement for all that is yet to unfold.

I remember my first first day of school as a teacher. The bell rings to signal the start of class, I’m standing at the front of the classroom and the students are in their desks, eagerly awaiting. And I smile. I smile because I recognize this as a dream. I find that much of my “free” time is spent dreaming about the how my students will be and who they will become. And even as perfect strangers in that very first moment, I love them already.

But that sweet moment quickly fades as we dive into the school year. I learn to chide with the class clowns and I am grateful for the hard workers. Over our 180 days together, I’d like to think that I taught my students something about math and maybe a little bit about life along the way. But the funny thing about being a teacher is that you often feel that you learn way more than your students. I mean, I certainly see math differently than the students because I’m not learning it for the first time and I’m looking at it from a wider perspective that allows me to see how it all fits together and makes sense.

I also learn a lot from my students about what it means to love – unconditionally and always. Some students are easy to love: they always do their homework and I don’t have to tell them twice to take notes. I was surprised at how easy it was to love their counterparts too: including the class clowns, the lower-achieving students, and the ones that try to sidetrack the class by being all-too-interested in my personal life. I love them in spite of – or perhaps because of – their silly antics, their sassy authenticity, and even the generally weird things that they do. They make me laugh every day, and how lucky I am to have job where that is so.

Believe it or not, teachers aren’t in it for the money…we’re not even in it for the summers off…we’re there because we are head over heals in love with the kids that we teach. When recounting funny stories or inspiring moments at school, we refer to our students as “our kids” and we brag about them as if they were our own, too. They jokingly call me “mom”…or maybe they’re only half-joking because I always get a few cards from my students on mother’s day.

Perhaps you can imagine my students’ reaction, about two weeks ago, when I informed them that I’m moving back to California and that I will not be their teacher next year. I think my favorite response was “but I’m gonna die if you leave!!!” They might be a little dramatic, but it’s precious nonetheless. It’s been an emotional time, but I recognize that I am incredibly lucky to have something that makes leaving so difficult.

         In my job description, I’m required to teach them the math curriculum. But what they don’t tell you is that you simultaneously need to show these teenagers that they are loved, to build off their strengths, and to believe in them. People can do amazing things when they know that someone believes in them. Maybe they are “just” teenagers, but who says that will stop them from changing the world for the better? I know they can, because they’ve already changed mine.