The second best thing about living in San Diego (number one is the weather) is the beach. I can pack up my car, drive for ten minutes, and plop down on the sand with my umbrella and chair and enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean. Too often I get caught up in other distractions, and I forget to treat myself to a beach day.
Today I met two parents of students who will be in my classroom next year and their kids for a beach day. One of the parents is my best friend in San Diego and a former colleague; the second is a mom I’m already familiar with because I’ve had her daughter for two years in book club and this summer for writing camp. It was a wonderful day of chatting, eating and playing around with the kids.
As we were packing up I asked the second woman’s daughter, “Is it weird for you to see your teacher hanging out with you all on the beach, her ghostly-pale legs hanging out of her shorts? You know, since I have to be all ‘Ms. Berg’ in September.” The girl replied, “No, ’cause you’re just being like you always are anyway. Mrs. Berg at school is the same as Mrs. Berg at the beach; no difference.”
To me, her comment is one of the greatest compliments I have ever received because it means that I am being real in my classroom, authentic. I don’t want to be anyone but myself in my classroom since relationships must be built on truth, and for this girl to see no difference in who I am or my behavior confirms I am reaching my goal. It does no good to pretend anyway, because kids can see through fakery in a hot second.
I think my willingness to be real with my students is why I get the results I do. My kids trust me; if I’m willing to admit that the pus from an ingrown toenail fascinates me or that I hated school (true), then it is easier to believe what I say about writing or what I think they’re capable of. I am who I am, no more, no less, and they trust me for it.