Category Archives: Reasons I Love to Teach

Reason I Love to Teach # 12

I Don’t Dread Coming Back to Work

Don’t get me wrong, the first week back from Christmas break is always rough.  The days stretch long and my brain physically aches.  But no matter how wonderful the break was, no matter how many friends I laughed with:

or adventures I embarked on…

No matter how many guns were fired…

or fires were built: 

I still love coming back to my little classroom to be with my little teenagers.

I mean sure, I groaned every morning when my alarm went off.  And yeah, every day I was tired and hungry and retraining my bladder is never fun.  But my students made me laugh every day, and they made it less painful to wake up before the sun.  (Which really should be illegal) That being said, this conversation took place the first day we got back:

S: Miss Hardeman, did you dye your hair darker?

Me: Nope.

S: Are you sure?  It looks A LOT darker.

Me: Yes, I am sure.  This is what it looks like when my hair hasn’t been washed.

S: Oh.

T: Ew.

I wasn’t too offended because “ew” is one of T’s favorite words.  Later in the week he said, “Ew.  Silent letters are the worst.”

Apart from not being able to wake up in time to shower, one other problem with returning to school is that I must readjust my filter and quit saying and doing everything that comes to mind.  Two of my sweet international students were the unfortunate recipients of said forgotten filter.  One girl was doing her math homework when she finished her work, so without thinking I grabbed her papers, threw them in the air, and yelled, “Math?!? You can’t do MATH in here!”

Then one of my favorite boys, a quiet Korean genius, was looking back at his notes when he wasn’t supposed to so I snuck up behind him, grabbed his shoulders, and yelled, “What are you doing?!?” He may have peed himself.

Note to self: overly-dramatic displays of pretend anger do not always translate across cultures.

But by mid-week my filter was back on and I was totally normal and responsible.  My students on the other hand…well let’s just say that one day I had to ask them to stop licking their iPads.  Yes, LICKING their iPads.  I allowed them to write with their elbows and even their noses (though I warned them they would probably break out), but I drew the line at using their tongues.  Kids these days…

Here were some of the conversations from the week that made coming back to work enjoyable.

Me: That’s enough, guys.  You should only be talking to your parter about the causes of the revolution right now.

K: Okay, but Miss Hardeman?

Me: Yes?

K: What’s your favorite cereal?

Me: Stop it.

5 minutes later

K: Miss Hardeman, seriously though, what is your favorite cereal?

Me: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Class: erupts into cheers

I may have earned the respect of that class period with my love of sugar cereals, but I lost it in the next class period.  I had drawn a stick figure of Czar Nicholas II and he was holding two swords to represent the two wars he got Russia involved in.  I had written the names of the wars on the swords and the class had to copy the picture so the following conversation took place:

A: Miss Hardeman, what does the sword say?

Me: Ring-ding-ding-a-ding-da-ding-ding.

Long silent pause as the class stared at me with jaws dropped.

T: I just lost so much respect for you.

I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t continue with “wha-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa” like I was considering. Speaking of Russia, after reading a passage about Bloody Sunday in my Russian accent, this conversation happened:

E: You sound like an Olga when you talk like that.

Me: What do you mean?

E: You know how in movies there’s always a pretty Russian masseuse?

Me: Okay…

E: Well and then there’s also a scary looking girl with a unibrow named Olga?

Me: Sure…

E: Well, you sound like the Olga.

When teaching teenagers, one quickly develops thick skin.

Another great thing about teaching is you have a live audience all day and can teach these little sponges whatever you’d like.  Naturally I taught them to speak with Russian accents- an immensely valuable lifeskill.  A youtube tutorial was involved and I may have required them to practice with a partner.  I also taught them how you can’t lift your ring finger off the desk once you’ve made a fist. (Try it. One girl hurt herself trying.) And of course I taught them the art of plucking a chicken:

because come July, they’ll most likely forget all about the Progressive Era and the Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal, but they will probably never forget that you must dip the chicken in nearly boiling water for about 30 seconds and then the feathers will pull right off.

The final class moment from the week that made me glad to be back happened during my study hall, a class that consists of 9 boys from all different social circles.  This conversation took place on Friday:

C: Hey, is everyone in here single?

Class: nods.

C: Yeah! Forever alone!

Me: We should all get that tattooed across our chests.

Class: looks of horror and confusion.

Apparently I’m still working on getting that filter completely back on.

What I realized this week is that if I can’t spend all my days snow-shoeing with friends, shooting guns, exploring the wild, building fires and plucking chickens, then I will gladly spend my time in the classroom with ridiculous teenagers laughing at ridiculous things.

Reasons I love to teach # 11

Kids Say Weird Things

My friend Amanda teaches little ones in Canada and she sometimes writes posts like THIS ONE recording the bizarre things they say.  I’m not sure if it’s because they’re so young or because they’re so Canadian, but these kids are downright weird.  (It’s probably a combination of both.)

My students are American teenagers so they are not nearly as cute or as Canadian-weird, but lately they have been saying some pretty ridiculous things.  The following are a few comments and conversations from the semester that have made me love my job even more.

First, you need to know that the students wear uniforms so they are extra observant when it comes to what their teachers are wearing.  Here are two of my favorite student observations concerning my clothes:

A: If I wore your outfit, I would look like a homeless hobo in pajamas, but you are totally pulling it off.

Me: Thank you?

C: Why do you have so many cute clothes when you’re not even dating anyone?

Me: Excellent question.

To understand these next comments, you need to know that I am not very how you say “affectionate” and am therefore not much of a hugger.  And when I say “not a hugger,” I mean I really don’t like hugging and try to avoid it when at all possible.  (If you too have an aversion to hugging, you will LOVE THIS POST by a fellow hug-hater.)

C: We’ve been having a competition all semester to see who you will hug first.

Me: Please stop.

T: How about a grandpa?

Me: What are you talking about?

T: You said you’d hug me if my mom or dad died, but how bout if my grandpa died?

Me: Nice try.  I know he died last year.

Said after I gave a kid a high-five:

B: That’s the second time you’ve made physical contact with me.  The first time was last year when you bumped my shoulder.

Me: Please don’t keep track of that statistic.

A comment I overheard while our Cross Country team was stretching:

J: If you ever brought a gun to school, I would tell on you so hard.

A conversation I overheard in class:

D: It was not my day yesterday.

C: Why not?

D: My boomer rang broke.

Lastly, the following is a conversation I had yesterday with a kid who collapsed after our last Cross Country meet and went to the hospital because he was having serious heart issues.

Me: Hey, how’s your heart?

Kid: Good.  I’m getting 2 pacemakers put in.

Me: What?!?

Kid: Yeah, I’m having surgery next week.

Me: Are you serious? You’re having HEART surgery?

Kid: Pretty cool, right?

Me: Cool?  No.  “Cool” is definitely not the right adjective. You’re only 16!

Kid: Miss Hardeman.

Me: What?

Kid: I’m just kidding.

Who does that?!?

Gotta love these kids…


Reasons I love to teach # 10

Kids Have School Spirit

Not all kids.  And not at all schools. But one of the many joys of teaching at Valley Christian High School is the fact that so many kids do actually love their school and participate during Spirit Week.  Participation looks like wearing crazy outfits every day of the week and being loud and obnoxious and wild and crazy without any fear of judgment during the pep assemblies.  It’s so fun to see so many teenagers who aren’t “too cool” to yell for their school.  In fact, it’s the ones who refuse to join in who are looked down upon.

Don’t believe me?

I was one of the judges for the cheering competitions this year and captured some of the craziness:

Pretty intense, right?

And here’s my favorite shot of the day:

All this for the bragging rights of being the loudest class.

Somewhere along the way, we lose this kind of energy and enthusiasm.  We stop screaming at the top of our lungs, and we stifle our wild and crazy ways.  Sure, they resurface at concerts and some sporting events, but for the most part, adults are too tired or too cool or maybe too fearful of judgment to jump and yell and scream for something we believe in.

It’s a joy to be around kids who don’t care yet- who aren’t yet shackled by society’s rules to “be normal.” Sure, these kids are probably hyped up on Mountain Dew and Hot Cheetos.  And yeah, they fall into a bit of the Lord of the Flies mob mentality when they all get together.  But they are willing to dress in ridiculous outfits and lose their voices screaming at a pep rally simply because they can and because it’s fun and because no one’s judging them for their enthusiasm…yet.

One of the perks of teaching these spirited screamers is that we get to be around their crazy energy all the time.

And sometimes their ridiculousness brings out a bit of our own:

Reasons I love to teach # 9

After five years it finally happened.  A history teaching spot finally opened up and I am back in my natural element, teaching the classes that I love and loving what I teach.  No more googling grammar rules during class.  No more faking enthusiasm about poetry.  No more feeling like an idiot when I don’t know how to spell a word.  And, praise the Lord, no more weekends spent grading endless stacks of essays.

So for the first time in five years, I actually have some free time!  Like enough free time to watch 8 straight episodes of Scandal on Saturday because the show is that good and my social life is that pathetic.  

Time to watch addictive television is not the only reason I love teaching History.  I love talking about how history has shaped today’s world, and I love that my T.A. can grade all the quizzes.  I love tracing God’s hand throughout time, and I love that when students think of the state of Massachusetts, they think of Matt and Ben:

I love thinking about how people and situations have changed the entire world, and I love that one of my students thought Columbus came to America on the Mayflower.

I love telling stories of weirdos from a long time ago, and I love that a student asked me if the “framers of the Constitution” were the men who put the Constitution in a frame. (He was dead serious.)

I love proving to kids that history is not boring, and I love that one student drew this picture in her Spanish class:

Her depiction of students sitting in class yelling out the names of Greek philosophers is pretty spot on. 

However, despite all this love for teaching History, there actually are a few things I will miss about teaching English.  I will miss listening to freshmen read Romeo and Juliet and have the whole class snicker when they say, “my naked weapon is out.”

I will miss the simple lesson planning (read this/write that).

I will miss reading All Quiet on the Western Front and crying in front of the class every single time I read the end of chapter six.

I will miss getting kids excited about books and getting e-mails like this:

Happy, sad, and lost without the book? A reader was birthed in my class!

I will also miss the irony of notes like this:

For the record, I end each semester with a speech where I tell them that they are not allowed to ignore me in the halls the following year.

And though I will never ever miss grading formal essays, I will truly miss reading journals and informal writing where kids were always willing to share their hearts and so often cracked me up.  So reason # 9 that I love to teach is because…

Teenagers give great advice

Take, for instance, this advice they wrote to International students to help them fit in at Valley:

* It’s horrible if you have a bottom locker, such as I, because sometimes you will accidentally bump into a person’s butt, and that’s not good because it just makes the situation awkward.

* Instead of awkward meaning awkward, it now means awkward, unfortunate, or just not good.  Rape means someone is barely touching you or just standing too close, and being a “stalker” can mean you did something as simple as seeing someone in public or knowing their birthday or middle name.

* Fly isn’t just something birds do, “sick” doesn’t necessarily mean you have a virus, and being called a “dawg” doesn’t mean you’re being compared to an animal.  Look out for things like someone asking if you want to get stoned with them.  It doens’t mean you’re going to be pelted with rocks, but it’s best to just say no.

* One of the most well-known restaurants in the US is McDonald’s.  No.  Just…no.  You’ll thank me later.

* Nothing from the Dollar Tree is good.  Except their hair dye.  That stuff doesn’t come out.

* If you have Miss Hardeman, she will usually tell you one of her stories during class, and if she gets off track, ask her if she found twenty dollars and she will know what you mean. (I never should have told them about $ 20 dollar stories.)

* Don’t be scared if someone says they want to tweet you, skype you, or oovoo with you.  None of those are dirty.  I promise.

* Everyone speaks American here.  (oh good gosh)

* Don’t play video games.  Don’t even touch a game controller.  They suck you in and don’t let go.  They’re like cocaine except instead of making people skinny and hyper, they make people obese and incontinent. (weirdly proud that he knew this word) 

* Watching out for Raiders fans.  They’re not nice people.

* Not all parts of California are beaches and smiles.  If someone asks you to got to a place called downtown LA, don’t.

* Beware: Americans are horrible about flushing the toilet in public bathrooms.  Always flush the toilet!

* Don’t be one of those weirdoes who picks their nose then eats it.  Nobody likes those kids.  (my brothers would object)

* You should know that sometimes Canadian bands get into the top ten on the music charts.

* Don’t watch any of these vampire movies.  They’re all terrible.

* There is a boy band called One Direction that all the girls love.  They are terrible but you should know their names so you don’t start off on the wrong foot with the girls.

*Hopefully you tan easily because here in California, people get very tan.  If you don’t tan easily, like me, make pale friends.

* Don’t get angry because it takes six hours to get from California to New York.  That used to take thirty years and most of the people would die.  Now you watch an Adam Sandler movie, take a big runny dump, and you’re there.

Yes, I will truly miss reading gems like those.  I can’t imagine anyone using the phrase “runny dump” in a history assignment except maybe if they are referring to Montezuma.

The next pieces of advice come from an assignment where they had to write a letter to their pretend new baby sibling.  You will quickly see why I love my students so much:

“Be nice to people, read the bible, and listen to Mom and Dad.”  That’s my favorite piece of advice.  Well, that and the warning about Canadian bands.  That line was pure gold…
How about you?  Which piece of teenager advice did you like the best?

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

This year marks the beginning of my 10th year as a teacher.  I’ve taught in a large public school, a tiny missionary school, and a medium-size Christian school and have found that no matter the location or school size, there are certain things about teaching will always be the same.  It will always be a truly wonderful profession, one that is fulfilling and fun and has fantastic perks like students who make us laugh every day and a 10 week summer.

But teaching is certainly not without it’s challenges, and during our first days of school last week, I couldn’t help but think about some of the annual transitions we teachers must make every September.  I realize lots of people who work “normal jobs” face these same challenges every day for 50 plus weeks, and you probably have zero sympathy for us as we recover from summer.  But I think my fellow teachers will admit that it’s always a bit of a strain on our bodies and minds as we switch gears and turn back to teacher mode.  That being said, here are a few of those challenges we faced last week.

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

1. Waking up 

It’s not that we dread the first day of school.  We really don’t.  I mean sure, we spend the last few nights of summer having first day of school nightmares about horrific students and showing up to school without shoes or a prepared syllabus, but for the most part, we are ready and eager to start a new school year.  However, after 10 weeks of getting decent sleep, our bodies revolt against the absurdity of rising before the sun.  There is something just plain unnatural about waking to darkness.  Without any light one might even, hypothetically speaking of course, accidentally step in the pile of cat puke so conveniently left beside the bed as she staggers to the shower.  So yes, just getting started in the morning can be quite the struggle. Continue reading

Miss Kitty’s Class

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through old albums looking for a picture for “Throw Back Thursday,” when I stumbled upon a typical scene from my teen years.  There was a turtle neck involved, feathered bangs, a sports watch, and my favorite oversized t-shirt that said, “Messiah.”

What I love about this picture, other than the fact that the little Mexican girl is mad-dogging the camera and copping a feel, is that I can remember feeling truly happy and fulfilled at this moment.  Sure, my eyes are tired but that is probably because I was up in the middle of the night with one of my crazy friends who convinced me to leave the tent to go pee in the woods with her.  (You know who you are.  And you know it wasn’t pee.)

As a 14 year old, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to “do when I grow up.”  I’m pretty sure I thought I’d be dead by now because 31?  That would have sounded ancient to the teen version of Katie.  I was too busy thinking about Leo DiCaprio and how to hide my acne than to wonder about what life would be like in my 30’s.  However, now I can see that it was during those trips to Mexico that God was planting seeds and growing in me a love for working with other cultures.  I had no idea what the future had in store, but He knew exactly what He had in store for me. Continue reading

Reasons I love to teach # 8

High school teachers are goofy.

This is most likely due to the fact that we spend so much time with teenagers.  Somehow their juvenile sense of humor has rubbed off on us.  Or perhaps we all chose this profession so we’d never have to actually grow up.  Either way, it’s kinda wonderful working with people who don’t pretend to be normal or cool.  God sure knew what He was doing when He directed me to Valley Christian, a place where my colleagues would be an extra kind of wacky and weird.

In fact, just yesterday at the end of the year BBQ, I joined a table of 6 male coworkers who all began applauding when I approached.  They shook my hand and said things like, “Well done”  and “There she is” and  “Congratulations” and “You’re the # 1 seed.”  When I asked what on earth they were talking about, they explained that they had spent the last 30 minutes debating which of the female teachers would win in fights against each other. Continue reading

Reasons I Love to Teach # 7

Memorable Class Periods

Every once in awhile teachers are given a new attendance sheet like none other.  On this list are the names of kids who will make a class that will leave a lasting impression on the teacher.  This year period 6 was that class.  Before I tell you why, here are some of my other memorable class periods: Continue reading

Reasons I love to teach # 6

Freshman artwork.

Some freshmen are really talented and can draw a pretty vicious snake.

Others draw things like this:

I’ve had this picture on my phone since November and look at it almost every time I’m having a bad day.  I’m not sure if it’s the butt crack or the look of quiet desperation on his face, but something about the morbid ridiculousness of this picture never fails to make me laugh.

So, to the freshman boy who composed “Pet Island” and drew this marvelous illustration,


Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your slightly twisted imagination.

Thank you for sketching hands and feet so horribly but a bending butt with surprising accuracy.

You are one of the many reasons I love this job.


Miss Hardeman

ps- Why the red eyes?

Reasons I love to teach #5

Teenagers can be super insightful

Not all the time.  Sometimes I shake my head at how dumb they can be.  Whoever coined the phrase, “There are no stupid questions” clearly was never a high school teacher.

On the board in the teacher’s lounge last week, one teacher wrote a note that while in the library, her student had googled “cerealism.”  He was trying to research surrealism.  Another teacher responded with note about how her student had to be told to stop licking the batteries.  Today I had a student ask to use my staple remover because she had accidentally stapled her essay to her sweatshirt.

So yeah, they’re not all geniuses.

And yet, there are moments when kids blow me away with their honesty, vulnerability and insight.  These moments typically occur when I’m reading their essays.  My students will lie to my face without batting an eye when it comes to explaining why they didn’t turn in their homework.  But when asked to write about their flaws that hinder them in life, they were shockingly honest.

Case in point:

This kid is bright!  And I’m not just saying that because he used the correct spelling of “affect.”

How often do I too say things without thinking about the effect of my words?

Ummmm, all the time.

He wasn’t the only student to realize the power of his words:

As adults, we often embarrassed ourselves with our careless words.  The difference between us and this student is that he will admit it.  He gets it.

Several other kids admitted that they struggle with pride and were able to articulate this struggle with simple and profound statements:

How many of us want everyone to know who we are?


How many of us feel superior to others often without even realizing it?

Double gulp.

You don’t react well to people telling you that you’re wrong?

You think you’re way is always the right way?

These kids were hitting a little too close to home.

Not me.  Not at all.  Not ever.

Yeah, right.

Or listen to this kid’s take on pride:

How often do I think I’m hot stuff when I’m really not?

Way too often.

How easy is it to forget and ignore those I feel superior to?

Way too easy.

Then this kid brought up something I’d venture to say most of us struggle with:

Not wanting to look like a fool in front of others: oh how I can relate!

When I think of all the silly, “white lies” I’ve told, it’s almost always because I want to hide my foolishness and make someone think I’m cooler than I really am.


At least this kid admits it.  I justify my little lies but when it comes down to it, I simply don’t want others to think less of me.

And lastly, there was this girl who voiced a similar problem:

You might not worry about your clothes, but do you worry about what others think of you?

I know I do.  And I know I’m not alone.

My professor recently told the story of how he (or a friend of his) sat next to R.C. Sproul on a plane.  For those who don’t know, Sproul is a big-wig in the Christian church- a highly respected and very well-known theologian. (Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him; I hadn’t either).  Apparently they were on their way to some giant speaking gig and when asked how he was feeling about it, R.C. replied that he was feeling really nervous.  When asked why, he responded with the following confession:

“Every time I speak I always wonder, ‘will they like me?'”

Will they like me?

Have you ever wondered that?

I sure have.  Though I really don’t like to admit it.  But hearing that a man like R.C. Sproul struggles with wanting to be liked suddenly made me feel less foolish.  A famous theologian can admit it.  My 15 year old student can admit it.  Surely I too can stop denying the truth and fess up.  I want people to like me.

I don’t think this is a sin itself, unless I care more about the opinions of others than the opinion of my God.  But all too often that is exactly the case.

In my Spiritual Formation class we recently learned about the “Sanctification Gap.”  It’s the gap between the person I am supposed to be (the ideal version of me, the one who bears all the fruits of the Spirit all the time, who lives like Jesus did and loves like Jesus loved) and the person that I actually am today. We talked about how different people deal with the fact of life that NONE of us are perfect or living exactly as we should.

Some people just try harder to be good.

Others try to follow a specific program to fix their sin.

Still others try to lessen the gap by ignoring or justifying their sin.  Guilty as charged.

I try to fool myself and make the gap between who I am today and who I’m called to be smaller by making my sins seem inconsequential.  I am the queen of ignoring and hiding and justifying my sin.  But clearly that’s not healthy or God-honoring.

So if my freshman students can admit to their shortcomings, surely I can too.  I may be teaching them where to put commas and how to write thesis statements, but these kids are teaching me so much in return!