This picture was taken in honor of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Brantly, who was my absolute favorite and the reason I chose teaching as my career when I was only seven-years-old. I used to pick these tiny white flowers for her every day at recess and, every single day, she acted as if they were the most beautiful flowers she had ever received. My days of attending school are over, yet I am currently learning at one of the fastest paces I have ever learned. Since moving here, the lessons I have learned about farming and ranching are many. The locals have schooled me about many things, including the fact that I am called a rancher and not a farmer. We aren’t growing anything on our land; therefore, we aren’t farmers. We are raising cattle and other livestock on our land; therefore, we are ranchers. It’s that simple. In addition to the lessons I have learned from the local ranchers, my own students have taught me a lot. The smiles on their faces are priceless as they look at me incredulously when I admit I don’t know something they know. They know these things because they have lived their entire lives on farms and ranches. They do daring things. They handle big animals. They aren’t afraid to get hurt. They are brave and hard-working.
Some of the things they have taught me recently include “roping the dummy” which I have never heard mentioned in my entire life until this past week. My students were making end-of-the-year multimedia presentations about their 7th grade year. Among the items they had to include were their favorite activities in school and what they do during their free time at home. That’s when it happened. One of my sweet girls casually read “rope the dummy” out loud from her Google Slides Presentation and that is when it started. I said “What does ‘rope the dummy’ mean?” My whole class erupted. “Mrs. Green!! You don’t know what that is?!” They all laughed and smiled as they taught me all about it. Silly me! How could I not know that EVERYONE has a fake stuffed cow that they pull around on skids behind a 4-wheeler and rope it for practice?!
Some of the other things my students listed in their multimedia presentations were walking their pigs, catching their steer and washing it, shooting skeet after school each day, practicing for drill team–which does NOT mean dance team–it means the team of horses and riders carrying flags that gallop in gallantly to open the rodeo. Several of my students are training for that or have participated in that in the past. Among my students, I have several barrel racers, Grand-Champion steer and pig winners, and many of my students wear leather and rhinestone-studded belts with huge belt buckles that they have won at various livestock shows and local rodeos.
What else have I learned from my tiny teachers? I have learned that you can do your school work at a breakneck pace when you are motivated to finish due to chores at home. I have also learned that many of them understand that they don’t have to go to college to be successful in life. You can be proud to practice a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation such as ranching, farming, or welding.
One of the things I love the most about my students is that they enjoy simple things. When I took them on a field trip today to tour the Texas A&M Campus, they were obsessed with Starbucks and the elevators. They were impressed with Freebirds and the serving sizes. (We only have one fast food restaurant and it is located inside a grocery store in our tiny Texas town.) Several of my students logged over 16,000 steps on their Fitbits, yet no one complained about being tired or hot even though it felt like a sauna in College Station. They are accustomed to being hot, working hard, and pushing through discomfort and it was my joy and pleasure to walk around the campus with them all day.
Our two daughters are both planning on going into the field of education. My hope and dream for them is to situate themselves in a tiny farming community similar to the one where we live. My love and passion for teaching has been rejuvenated to match my love for students which has never waned. It feels wonderful for those two things to match up again. My students have brought me much joy and laughter this year. I am thankful for their sweet spirits and willingness to not only teach me a few things, but embrace this City Slicker with open arms. I am happy to be learning lessons in my own classroom.