Friday, August 7, 2015

Flashback Friday...a shoutout to teachers and the students we love

A new year is upon us, my fellow teacher friends.  These words are for you...The teachers taking care of my 2 little ones in daycare aka "Base Camp" teaching them to share and go potty and talk nice to their friends...the ones teaching little people to count and sing their ABCs...the ones teaching life skills to special friends who need a little extra attention...the ones teaching kiddos how to read or study or work out word problems or interpret literature or write research papers...and the ones like me teaching teenagers how to be men and women ready to take on the world.  I know this is long but if you are one of those people, I promise this is worth the read. Often we have to be their moms and their dads and their teachers all at the same time.  On top of that, we have papers to grade and parents to call and data to collect and paperwork to complete and fires to put out.  We not only hand out assignments but we hand out advice and hugs and snacks and clothes, because in many cases we are the only ones doing so.

All that to say, our jobs aren't easy.  Our jobs aren't always fun.  Often we do not see immediate fruits of our labor, the progress from our stress, the growth from our teachings, the effort from our pep talks, or the respect from our love.  I never thought in a million years I would be teaching high school.  I thought I would be teaching young kids how to sit quietly in their seats and tie their shoes and sort things into boxes and communicate their emotions and control their anger.  I never thought I would have to tell a student to hand over their dip or put out their ciggarett or stop cussing in the hallway or stop hanging on their boyfriend or stop judging people based on the color of their skin.  I never thought I would have to spend an hour trying to convince a parent their child was capable of going to college. I never thought I would have to tell a student they were working too many hours after school only to be told they had to help pay the light bill.  I never thought my current students would be ringing me up when grocery shopping on the weekend.  I never thought I would have to tell my students to stop speeding out of the parking lot or stay out of jail.  

I never thought I would have the pleasure of seeing little kids just out of middle school four years later present senior projects about things they were passionate about.  I never thought I would watch minds change and hearts melt and eyes open to the prejudices so deeply rooted inside them.  I never thought I would watch a student convince a depressed friend that life was worth living.  I never thought I would see my students' talents lead them into promising careers just months after I was their teacher.  I never thought I would see my students start families of their own.  But I have.  And what a blessing it has been.
It took four years for me to figure out why I ended up teaching high school.  And I think one of those reasons is so I can encourage those of you who don't teach high school, and remind those who do why we do.  I stumbled upon this letter that I wrote after my fourth year of teaching. And it came just in time.  I did not come into this year extremely motivated or excited.  I had forgotten the purpose behind all that we do.  But this letter written by my former self to my graduating seniors reminded me why the heck I put up with these precious little boogers.

"Hello friend.  You may not know this, but you are part of a very special group to me.  What better time for me to show my appreciation for you than now?  You are ending one chapter of your life to begin another.  You are one of the few students that were in the first class I ever taught in.  I was 21 and fresh out of college and you were my guinea pigs.  I was thrown back into a world I had just left 4 years earlier...high school.  I was beginning my second adventure in high school and you were beginning your first.  I was just as scared of this place as you were.  But we got through it together.  Here we are, four years later, still alive and kicking.  We did it!

At times I have wondered why in the world I got into this profession.  Why would I put up with crazy kids all day?  Why would I bother waking up sleeping students or fussing at them in the hallways during class?  Why would I lecture my class about doing their best and studying hard when it seems they would much rather text on their phones or talk about cars?  

This is why!  You guys are why!  Because no matter what happened along the way, you have persevered and fought to get where you are.  You did this on your own.  You earned this.  I can't take any of the credit.  But I feel so honored to have been a piece of the puzzle in your high school career.  I have enjoyed...most of the time...watching you get here.  Seeing students walk across the stage at graduation to begin the next phase of their lives is so rewarding.  It is such a great reminder of why I am here.  So as you walk across the stage, know your success is driving me to start another year.  I will remember your smiles of pride and confidence on graduation day when I start to think, "what am I doing here?"  You guys are the reason I am a teacher.  You are why I will continue to do what I do.  Seeing you succeed shows me that my effort and time and love are worth it.  

And that is what it  You may not know this, but I love you.  All of you have played a part in my journey as a teacher.  And for that I thank you.  I will remember all of the smiles and the frustrations and the study sessions and the lectures and the laughs.  This is what makes me love my job.  

I can't wait to see you guys one day after graduation.  Don't avoid eye contact.  Smile.  Say hi.  Give me a hug.  Tell me all of the wonderful things you are doing with your life.  Fill me in.  Catch me up.  Come meet my family and introduce me to yours.  Make me proud.  You are the first ones I will share that moment with.  Hopefully many more will follow.  But you will always hold a special place in my heart.  

I don't think I could tell you this while I was your teacher, but I will tell you now.  I have been and will be praying for you.  I pray you become all God intends you to be.  I pray life gives you more smiles than tears.  I pray you create a life better than you dream.  

Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent and praiseworthy---think about such things.  Philippians 4:8" those teachers of you from preschool and up, know you are all part of this journey.  "A person's a person no matter how small."  Know that eventually those little stinkers of yours will go out into the world and do their thing.  And when life brings them success, remember you were a part of the road that got them there.  Your puzzle piece matters.  

And in the words of my beloved Dr. Seuss..."Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not"
So keep on caring.  You may be the only one who does.

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