Judith Tullock McNett

Teaching Another Year to Reach Another Child

1987


An offer in the mailbox personally addressed to me,
Congressional Scholarship in exchange for a teaching credential and a commitment,
Teach for a year, why not?
Just a short experience in my life or a life-changing decision?

Each smile,
Each voice,
Each knowing glance,
Being part of the difference in a child’s life,
Each child.

Robby
Angry third grader in my first class,
Standing by his desk, declaring “I hate you” week after week,
My constant reply, “I love you too. Now, sit down and get back to work.”
Slowly, his declarations became, “I don’t like you”,
My reply remained, “I love you too. Now, sit down and get back to work.”
By June, “I still don’t like you too much” was his outburst,
My reply was predictable, “I love you too.  Now, sit down and get back to work.”
I decided to teach another year.

Timmy
Incredible second grader,
Thrived on academics and kickball,
Flunked recess,
Thwarted a kidnapper at his bus stop.
I decided to teach another year.

Carla
Sweet, smart, sensitive, second grader,
Still remembers the impact of our relationship,
Her dad told me she’s studying to become a teacher,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Kelli
Shy second grader who learned to read and love learning,
Traveling after college,
Remembers my stories from my travels,
Wants her own stories to tell her students,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Charles
Former second grader,
Now a dad introducing his daughter to me,
A teacher who made a difference in his life,
Wishing aloud I could be her teacher,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Nathan
Defiant and angry seventh grader,
Wanted to be popular but needed to learn to read,
Successful student, athlete, and leader,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Tish
Rough start,
Suspended for using profanity to describe me on day three,
Worked hard to prove me wrong,
Proud student and happy high school cheerleader,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Ken
Barely reading in fifth grade,
Angry, upset, hiding behind past patterns of failure,
Hard work sustained over years,
Reads grade level tests and believes in his dreams,
I’m glad I decided to teach another year.

Ann
Struggling reader had finally become an excellent reader in seventh grade,
I believed in her abilities until she believed in her abilities,
Student in Honors classes and involved with many extracurricular activities,
Amazing speech to honor me,
I’m glad I decided to teach.

2013
Reality check, in the midst of my current 6th graders
“I need to borrow a pencil”,
“What homework?”,
“What do you mean?”,
“I brought my planner but I lost my pencil”,
“Look, I remembered my Reading Log”,
“Can I talk to you?”,
My head spins with the myriad of details my students present to me each day,

And yet…
As I tell my stories,
As I look at my photographs,
As I remember my students,
I am reminded why I teach.

Each child,
Being part of the difference in a child’s life,
Each voice,
Each smile.

Lasting impact of words and actions,
Awesome responsibility,
Incredible honor,
Power of reaching my future through each child,
I’m glad I am still a teacher.

Miss Tullock aka Mrs. McNett


Judith (Tullock) McNett currently teaches fifth graders at Thomas Harrison Middle School. She earned her B.A. at the University of La Verne, her teaching credential at the University of California at Riverside, and her M.Ed. at the University of Virginia. She holds endorsements in Reading and Gifted Education. She has been teaching children to learn to read and to read to learn for more than twenty-five years. Her family learns, plays, and lives together in Harrisonburg.