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This week I found myself reflecting on how lucky I am to get the opportunity to work with some incredible people in my career as a teacher. The teaching profession is full of human beings who are passionate, smart, talented, hardworking, creative, strong, and stubbornly devoted to doing the best they can for their students, no matter what obstacles are in the way.

In my current position as a sixth-grade language arts teacher, I am fortunate to work in a building that has a team model. My team has five teachers who share the same 100 students or so. We each teach one of the core subjects (math, science, social studies, English Language Arts), and we also have a special education teacher on our team. Our rooms are set up in pod arrangements, so we are all in one area of the building which also works out wonderfully for our sixth graders since it is their first year in a huge building with over 1000 students in grades 6-8.

I’ve worked with essentially the same group of teachers for a few years now, and as a team, we’ve been together long enough to have experienced some challenges. We’ve lost family members, one has gone through a divorce, one is currently pregnant with her first child, and two of us have sent our grown children away to college in other states. We’ve also taught through a global pandemic together. One thing I have learned in my experience of working with other teachers is that we become a family. I know I can count on these women on my team no matter what life throws at me. If one of us must leave work suddenly due to a death or an emergency of some kind, the others will print the sub plans, cover the class, communicate with our students, and then they follow up. They all send texts, emails, or they might even just show up in person to see what they can do to help.

I love the popular series Abbott Elementary. Anyone who has worked in education can identify the Janines, Jacobs, Barbaras, Avas, Melissas, Gregorys, Jacobs, and Janitor Johnsons in their buildings. The writers of that show have captured what it is like to work in public education. The ridiculous moments in that show are hilarious because they happen. If we didn’t laugh, we would certainly cry. And sometimes we do. On my team at school, we have a cast of similar characters to that show, each one playing a valuable and necessary role on our team.

The young one. On our team, we have a teacher who is brand new. I could be her mother. She is only a few years older than my daughter. The students love her. She is the Taylor Swift of our team. She is relevant, relatable, and she has a following. Students want to hang out with her whenever they can, before school, after school, any chance they get. They want to dress how she dresses and talk how she talks. But she has more than youth and optimism as her best qualities. She is an incredible teacher and is brilliant and real, and it warms my heart to know that long after I have retired, the young one will still be impacting the lives of students. And those students will never have any doubt how much she cares about every one of them.

The organized one. This one is the glue that holds our team together. She has made the agendas for our team meetings; she sees problems coming before they are problems and makes sure our team will be out in front of it before it happens. When she is gone from school, the rest of us struggle to figure out who is going to take charge of things. While she is super organized, she’s also surprisingly flexible. She is willing to try new things, work with new people, and do whatever is best for the students. She likes to keep her personal life private, but she is also so fun to hang out with if you can break her out of her regular routine and get her out to a social event. She is genuine and unwavering. I love people like that. She does not have a fake bone in her body, and you can always depend on her.

The heartfelt one. She is the math teacher on our team. And our students love math, even if it is not their best subject. This teacher somehow manages to make it fun and accessible. She wears her heart on her sleeve, but she also puts her whole heart into everything she does. When she gardens, she brings all of us vegetables and homemade salsa. When she buys a new home, she invites us all over for a gathering. If she has extra tickets to a baseball game, she gives them to us. When she learns a new dance on TikTok, she teaches it to the staff so we can do a flash mob to surprise the students. She laughs when she’s happy, cries when she’s sad, and she is the epitome of empathy. She puts herself in other people’s shoes, and she thinks about others when she is not with them. I can’t tell you how many times she’s come to me at school and said, “So, I was thinking about you last night, and I wanted to tell you….” She loves Christmas. She loves finding the joy in things, and she is another strong, beautiful soul with whom I get to work every day.

The crazy one. And I mean that in the most loving way. This one has been my best friend from work for nearly 20 years. We met in the staff room many years ago because we both felt that it was important to get out of our classrooms at lunchtime and get to know other people in the building. We’ve been eating lunch at work together almost every day since then, and we also have had Friday “staff meetings” after school at local establishments with groups of teachers. Those “meetings” have been one of the reasons that, after 26 years, I’m still content to teach. We’ve been each other’s counselors, and it is so therapeutic to laugh, cry, or just vent with people who get it. That has been so important. The crazy one is our special education teacher. The trials she encounters daily would send most people running far, far away from teaching. But she has the right personality for it. She’s a little bit of a mess. She loses her glasses, her keys, and her mind nearly every day. She spills things and laughs so loud that you can hear her five classrooms away. She’s interested in everyone and talks to everyone. She is the best person to have in an awkward situation because she won’t let it get awkwardly silent. She is going to start a conversation, and by the end of it, all will be participating. She loves her students with all her heart and is their biggest advocate. Everyone would be lucky to have the crazy one on their team and in their lives.

The quiet one. That might be me. The writer, the reflector, the observer. I’m usually quiet during meetings, until I’m not. I know a lot. I’ve been doing this for many years, but I don’t always reveal what I know because I’m too busy listening and taking it all in. I’m the one who always wanted to be a teacher and is living her dream. I take it seriously, and believe that teaching is a calling, and it is so important because of the thousands of lives we will impact during a career. Sometimes I’m inflexible because I think my way is the better way, and so I quietly just keep doing what I know is right, no matter what the latest educational trends or mandates are. But I’m also a learner, so every year I try new things in my teaching, and I do appreciate the time to observe others and learn from their vast knowledge and expertise. I’m not the one you’ll see goofing off at work. I use every minute of my prep time and then some just so I’ll be ready for my students every day. I would say I’m sincere and dedicated, and sometimes I need the crazy ones, the heartfelt ones, the organized ones, and the young ones to influence me and help me grow.

I’ve tried to be discreet in my descriptions of my colleagues because I did not get permission to publicly analyze their personalities. I don’t think they’ll mind, though. I’m very lucky to work with the best people every day, not just on my team or in my building, but with educators in general.  Because people with hearts to teach are special, and if those people are still out there wanting to teach, then tomorrow’s students are going to be just fine.