My Favorite Things

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things”

It’s that time of year again; the beginning of another school year. This year, I want to put some focus on my favorite things about my career. Unfortunately, there are no raindrops, roses or kittens in my classroom and mittens are incredibly rare here in Arizona. However, there are several other things that made the list.

1. Every year is a brand new year.

Every year, I get a brand new group of kids. They are completely different from the group from last year. They have their own goals and their own challenges. This means my work never gets rote or mundane. It’s always fresh and exciting. I can’t just whip out last years lesson plans and reuse them as is. I must adapt them for my new reality.

2. I am in charge of improving my performance.

I know I am not the only teacher who is terrified that they may screw up one of their students so bad that it ruins their life. If I am, then I fully admit that I lay awake at night and worry about how one cross word or one glance could ruin my students. However, I get the opportunity to reflect on the choices I made throughout the day and to try something different the next day. I can reflect on my performance and adapt my practice to meet the needs of each of my students. Therefore, I am constantly evolving and growing as an educator. My teaching is like a fine wine; it gets better with age.

3. I love seeing the hope in the eyes of brand new teachers.

The look in the eyes of a brand new teacher means everything to me. I remember that look. The hope and plans that they have to change the world. I know the years have left me a bit jaded. Many other veteran teachers could probably agree. Teaching is tough and the reality weighs on us in ways we probably don’t understand. When I see a new teacher ready to change the world, I am inspired all over again. I am reminded that I too can change the world for a child.

4. I love organizing a classroom.

My friends tease me about my OCD but there is something very therapeutic about putting everything in its correct spot in a classroom. All the books in each book basket are lined up and facing the same direction. The supply bin has full crayon boxes and there are not random half crayons floating around. The sharp pencil basket is full of sharp pencils with clean erasers. There is not any pencil shavings or hole punches covering the floor. I sometimes cringe at the thought of students coming in and making a mess of my room. “NO! You can’t touch that! You’ll mess it up!” However, I just remember that I will get to re-organize it and the world is right again. Life can be very chaotic so it’s good to know that everything has its place in my classroom.

5. That feeling you get in May when you can see where your students started and how far they have come is everything.

This is pretty self-explanatory. A bigger paycheck would be nice but this is one of the main things that keep me coming back year after year. I don’t think any other professional in any other field can relate to the feeling of pride that rises up in a teacher’s throat as they realize how far their students have come.

6. I still get thrilled to see a Scholastic box come to my classroom.

What was one of your favorite memories as a student? I bet 1,000 bonus points it was similar to mine. I loved getting the Scholastic book order and circling the books I wanted. As soon as I get the new catalogue in my mailbox, I do the same thing. I circle all of the books I want for my class. I pass out the orders and my students do the same thing. I wait a week for students to earn money and select the books they want. I then put the order in and have to wait two torturous weeks for the box to come. As soon as it comes, I race to my classroom to see what’s in it as if I forgot what I ordered! I place the books on the desks of the people who ordered them. As I glance around the room, I notice that my pile is almost triple the size as anyone else’s. Oh well. As a kid, I never got to get every book I wanted. As an adult, I can. Some dreams do come true.

These are just a few of my favorite things about my career. There are many more I could list like each one of nearly 30 students every year. What are some of your favorite things?


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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