There is much wisdom in our world. Many quotes, one-liners and memes offer a thought in few words.

One of my favorite proverbs is, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”

Many interpretations of this quote have surfaced, including the witty continuation “……at least you are a mile away and you have his shoes.”

I took this quote and finagled it metaphorically into the journey of a teacher: “If you walk a mile in a teacher’s shoes, you better have more than one pair.”

It is said teachers wear many hats, but because we are always on the move, using the analogy of shoes is better. There are many amazing days when we wear our ruby slippers because our day is beautiful and sparkly.

There are also many days when we are in the trenches alongside our students. We have to be ready with our educational army boots. A teacher never knows which shoes she will need, but we never regret having to wear the army boots now and then.

My shoe experiences vary from K3 to fourth grade. Below are a few of my favorites:

Ruby slippers: Accidently being called “mom.”

Army boots: Two kids pointing at each other because “(S)he started it…!”

Ruby slippers: That WOW moment when a student finally gets reducing fractions to simplest form.

Army boots: “_____is being mean to me because she said I can’t come to her birthday party in July!” (Keep in mind, it’s the school year.)

Ruby slippers: “I never liked reading until I found this book/series!”

Army boots: (Raises hand during group work on the rug)

“Mrs. C? I don’t feel well. I think I mig… BBBLLLLEAAAAH!”

Ruby slippers: Hugs, notes, Snoopy drawings, flowers made of duct tape, gluten free cookies, gifts from the heart of a child.

Army boots: “I won’t ever understand this, so why even try?”

Ruby slippers: Kids walking out of class still talking about the science lab we just had, saying how much fun it was.

Army boots: Working countless late nights and weekends.

Ruby slippers: (See ruby slipper about kids walking out of science class.)

Army boots: After a religion lesson, two kids asking, “If Mary was a virgin, how did she get pregnant with Jesus?”

Ruby slippers: As they talk about it, one suddenly says, “Oh! I know! She got pregnant without doing all of that detailed stuff.”

Army boots: “I brought my guns to school today….”

Ruby slippers: (rolls eyes after being told we don’t bring toy guns to school) “Not THOSE guns….. THESE GUNS!” Then proceeds to flex his arms and kiss each bicep.

Army boots: “_________ said a swear word”

Ruby slippers: “He said STUPID.”

Army boots: Trying to place student’s desks in a way that friends, foes, crushes, girls, boys, learning levels and personalities are distributed in a way that makes it a positive learning environment.

Ruby slippers: When the above strategy works!

Army boots: During social studies, a student notices the class gerbil is dying.

Ruby slippers: The maintenance person, who just happens to be passing by, says he “will help the little fella.” The next day he comes by and explains that God needed another gerbil in heaven.

Army boots: Mysterious smell narrowed down to a locker that contains what appears to be grapes from October.

Ruby slippers: “Can we pray for my dad? He’s really sick.”

Ruby slippers: (Bus driver on a field trip) “I love driving kids from Catholic schools. They always say thank you.”

Ruby slippers: (Child forgets snack) “Here! I have an extra package of goldfish crackers!”

Ruby slippers: Including a child during partner work when he or she is too shy to ask.

Ruby slippers: Children’s Masses and children in the choir.

Ruby slippers: Older church buddies helping the little ones find page 391 in the song book.

Ruby slippers: Seeing a student in public and he or she approaches with a huge smile to say “hi.” Younger kids will then ask why I am not at school.

Ruby slippers: When my fourth grade class can recite a favorite phrase of mine: “Not my circus, not my monkey” and understand what it means.

As you can see, the ruby slippers outshine the army boot situations. The shiniest ruby slipper is the fact I am able to teach at a Catholic school because parents choose to send their children to one.

I feel truly honored and blessed to be the one with whom they trust their child for seven hours a day.

I absolutely love teaching and couldn’t see myself in any other profession. It’s the Catholic environment and amazing kids I love as my own.

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we celebrate the schools, the teachers and the “ultimate teacher.” It can also be said that we teachers, wearing our ruby slippers, celebrate the child and the parents as well.  

(Michele, a mother of three, teaches fourth grade at Waukesha Catholic School, Waukesha.)