By Karen Mitchell

On August 5th, 2019, I’ll begin my 16th year as an educator. Half a career has literally flown by almost as quickly as a teacher’s summer vacation. The sleepless nights during pre-planning and the first day jitters are still there…and that’s a good thing because I’ve always said that when they leave, I’ll need to as well.


As I head back to school once again with fresh flair pens and a cute coffee cup, I consider what I’d tell my young 22 year old self standing in front of my very first class back in 2004.


For starters, I’d tell her that she would indeed survive and that although it would be the most challenging class she’d ever teach,and  in oh so many ways, it would also make her the strongest teacher she never knew she could be. I’d wipe her tears as she stood beside five year old William as he kicked her, scratched her and got down on his knees and begged her not to call his momma. I’d give her a glorious glimpse forward to May 20, 2019, when despite many hurdles and being held back, William walked across a stage in Birmingham, AL to receive his high school diploma.


I’d tell her to get familiar with packing, moving and decorating classrooms because she’d get the “opportunity” to do it 8 more times in the next 15 years.


I’d urge her to admire and respect everyone in the school building, from the highest paid to the lowest, because positions and paychecks don’t matter but people do.


I’d warn her that she’ll lose sleep over students and scores and stressful emails from parents but caffeine will cure a lot and tomorrow will always be a new day with no mistakes in it.


I’d caution her that she’ll perform a zillion “other roles” that certainly weren’t in that contract she so eagerly signed, yet it’ll still be the most rewarding job she’ll ever do. Then, I’d tell her I was wrong {because teachers make mistakes too} and that becoming a mommy is truly the most rewarding job she’ll ever do and it’ll soften her heart and help her realize that every child truly is someone’s whole world and it’ll make her an even better teacher.


I’d tell her to respect those in authority over her and to avoid gossip and negativity like the plague. I’d tell her to spread sunshine instead, stay humble and always smile no matter how many times you’ve passed a person in the hallway.  Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.


I’d encourage her to pray for her colleagues and students daily. I’d tell her that a lot of people think teaching is a noble career but if it’s truly your calling, you can’t do it without Jesus.


Finally, I’d tell her to never take that silver compass off her desk because 16 years later it’ll still sit there as a dusty reminder to lead, love and launch the next generation. I’d whisper in her ear that gentle yet giant truth that she was created for this.


So cheers to all my educator friends as we journey back to school once again. May we all take time to reflect on the past, remember the seeds we’ve planted and be renewed for the journey that lies ahead. May this be our best year yet and may we give all we’ve got to our most important work…our children.


Karen Mitchell completed her 15th year of teaching in May. She loves reminding her K-2nd entrepreneurship students at Brookwood Elementary to “never hide their sunshine” because they each carry a unique joy that the world needs to see!

Mrs. Karen Mitchell

K-2 Entrepreneurship Teacher

Brookwood Elementary School