“My dream has come true!” the little blonde 8th grade boy exclaimed with joy at the sight of me interrupting his English class in a bright blue ball gown, my neck elaborately embellished with a black ribbon necklace, a Cinderella bun atop my own blonde head.
My neighbor, Mrs. Panabaker, had adorned herself in red lipstick and fur (which was actually feathers, but who needs to know the minor details) as Cruella De Vil for Spirit Week and as Cinderella, I just had to stop in an visit my unlikely friend.
It brightened my day to hear my favorite student in Mrs. P’s 8th grade class (we are allowed to choose favorites if they’re not in our class-it’s in the unwritten imaginary bylaws). More importantly, it made not being able to take a full breath for a solid 8 hours absolutely worth it.
THE FIRST moment I experienced the fruit of being a teacher this year (my first year!) happened during English class, where a lot of things happen because that is the subject I happen to teach; my 7th grade Classic Lit. class to be specific. It was Cornell notes. Not the notes themselves, even as Cinderella I wasn’t luny enough to believe inanimate nouns could benefit from my teaching ability; it was the note-taker. His name was…
This is where I must choose to change the names of my students in order to protect their identity…
Harry, his name was Harry.
As Harry settled into his desk and chair, he looked at me with the same intensity he displayed every day beneath his spikey hair and he said the 7 (9?) words that would forever change the way I felt about teaching up until that point which had only been a mere 3-4 weeks but was life-changing nonetheless:
“I used Cornell notes in real life this weekend.”
What joy I experienced as he relayed to me the (rather short) story of how he used what I taught him, Cornell style note taking, to jot down the highlights of a town council meeting he attended for a Boy Scout event that Saturday. I was so proud, and thoroughly filled with purpose. I had taught something that mattered in real life. I, had taught something, so someone.
THAT’S why we work for 8 hours a day so that we can stay at work and put in another 2-4 hours before we stay at work and spend another 2-3 hours watching our students perform in choir or softball or football. It’s why we pack a ridiculous amount of food and joke about bringing our pillows as we settle in to spend the ENTIRE day at school, giving up our lunches for tutoring sessions. It’s that feeling that you just impacted the world.
It’s that sound of the drop falling into a bucket.
But it’s more than that, because they have our hearts in their grubby little hands.
IT HURTS to watch your kid lie on the painted astroturf with his head in his hands, helmet hiding the details from your sight. I imagine it must be even harder when he’s your own child.
These are our students, our kids in many ways. We think about them as we write their tests, talk to them as we hand back their homework; then we worry about them on the drive home and dream about them when we can’t sleep at night because we’re too busy worrying about their tests and the homework that they only pretended to do.
But we can’t go down to the green and give them a big hug, congratulating them on a win against our rival team or consoling them after a big loss. We’re they’re teachers. We’re only their teachers.
LAST WEEK at the end of our first quarter, one of my fiery 10th graders turned to me as he walked out the door and said, “Thank you for making me get my stuff together.”
It’s been an honor.
That was another big moment for me.
As a middle school and high school English teacher, I have a total of about 140 students that I strive to impact with more than lessons on grammar, literature and writing.
I don’t even like grammar and I’m currently in rebellion against the Oxford comma despite the fact that I teach it to my students.
I would wake up at 5am every day, make the 30minute drive, and spend the next 10-15 hours at school if English didn’t exist at all. I do it for them. Oddly enough, I love them.
WHEN I STARTED working at this school, actually from the first interview, God gave me a special love for them.
I grew to adore the principals upon which the staff stood as well as the staff themselves. I developed a soft spot for the families that came to cheer on their students in the spring musical with more heart than I had ever witnessed before a stage. I even felt that warm sunshiny tingle that whispered “home” as I walked through the blue and gold hallways for the first time. It was a calling that pulled at my whole heart and soul.
And no, it’s not perfect. That’s the beauty of it. They seem to need, or want me at the very least. I matter. I impact their lives. My students go home and they tell their parents about me. They talk about me with their lab partners in science class. But I’m not just here for the students. They would be fine without me, I’m sure. English is just English; I know anyone could fill these shoes. What’s beautiful is that in this light and shining place there is still darkness, and I am a light.
I AM GOD’S DAUGHTER
While I pretend this is so not my first year of teaching and I don’t know what I’m doing as I hide my dislike for the Oxford comma and avoid answering plot line questions on the reading because I am chapters behind my students, God is working.
He is working as I relay with joy to my coworkers how pulling up to the gas station on fumes 20minutes before I was due to teach actually set my day up wonderfully, giving me a renewed thankful attitude and fervor in faith as I dwelled on God’s provision shaped like a Shell.
He’s present when a bubbly 9th grader sings Hamilton with me after school while we both grade my 10th grade literature tests.
He is there when my entire 4th hour starts an unofficial gang called the “Geek Police” to find the alias maker who posted a mean comment on my class website last week.
I am loved.
THAT’S the other beautiful thing about this job, they seem to love me too.
I AM THANKFUL that I get to call this place home in many ways. I am also thankful that for the first time in my life I know what it’s like to love with absolutely no agenda, no expectations, and needing nothing in return. I’m still a selfish sinful human being but I know this is just a small taste of what good is to come.
Knowing that, I can only attempt to imagine what good lies farther down the road and into my eternal future.