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The Fun of Teaching

Chris Lembo - ACE 27, Atlanta

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I love acting like a child. If one of the love languages was goofing around, playing pretend, and making funny faces, that would be mine. Not a day goes by when I don't think back on how careless and fun my childhood was. Especially now, as a middle school teacher, I am constantly bringing back memories from my own eighth-grade experience to help me relate to my students better. However, I knew when I joined ACE that I wouldn't be acting like a child in class. One of the pillars of ACE is professionalism, and besides that, I was now responsible for someone's child for the majority of the week. There is a time for the child-like goofiness, and a time for professionalism and responsibility.

Still, I did not expect so many opportunities to access my inner child each day at school. When I received my school placement last year, my close friend Michael Kenney immediately asked me if my middle school was also attached to a Pre-K through sixth-grade school. When I told him that it was, he got very excited for me, and it wasn't until the first few days of school that I realized why he had responded this way. There's nothing better than a hundred small children running into the school at 7 a.m. carrying backpacks bigger than their entire bodies. That alone makes it worth waking up so early in the morning to teach. Not to mention when those same small children march past the classroom and say hello in their tiny little voices.

On multiple days each school year, the entire school dresses up for special occasions such as Halloween, Christmas, Multicultural Day, and Book Character Day. For Book Character Day, each grade level stood outside their room, and one by one, the classes took turns parading around the school showing off their costumes to the other grades. My heart filled with so much love and happiness when waving at preschooler Molly who skipped past in her sparkling Disney princess dress, or while fist-bumping second-grader Mateo who waved his Harry Potter wand at everyone.

lembotfblog2One of my favorite parts of the day is the afterschool program, which only a handful of students stick around for. My first time stopping by the afterschool program, second-grader Harmony and I danced to Just Dance videos for two full hours. I was late to community dinner that night, but thankfully I was forgiven. On most occasions after school, I will play basketball with three of the boys, dress up with a couple of the kindergarteners, or play tag with everyone. The kids are creating a stage performance, and they have graciously allowed me a secondary role. It's these moments of childish behavior that bring me to a place of such sincere happiness, moments that I appreciate the most when walking to the car, my dress shirt drenched in sweat from trying to keep up with the kids.

In addition to all of the fun time I spend with the younger kids at St. Peter Claver, I get to share plenty of childlike moments with my middle school students as well. I love my job because I can constantly engage in a mix of professionalism and goofiness. Spending most of my day with the seventh- and eighth-grade students, we still have our fair share of dance battles and sing-offs in class. One day, while sitting outside on the lawn and  eating lunch with my seventh-grade student, Kaw Nay, we watched as the other students talked or played games in the parking lot. Kaw Nay suddenly asked me why I would choose to be a teacher when a business job pays so much better. I hadn't put much thought into a question like this before, but the true answer — the one I gave Kaw Nay — is how fun it is to be a teacher. Each day is filled with hilarious stories and fun experiences, affirming my love language of child-like joy.


Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach

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