I had a student write me a note earlier this year thanking me for all of my heart and time I give to my school. The student mentioned that they didn’t realize what a sacrifice it was until one Saturday they watched as I interacted with my girls during one our weekend events. The letter mentioned that it was so neat to see the love I interacted with them and how similar it looked to the way I move and interact in my classroom.
That letter has stuck with me this summer. I am keenly aware that being a teacher’s child means that suddenly your sharing a parent with 30-120 more kids a day. And then my girls hit the jackpot with two teachers. At first I was a little embarrassed as if I had sat my girls aside in favor of my school, my job, I care for so deeply. So I just asked them and to hear what my own girls thought of me and my job confirmed what I should have already known. I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I am living my best and most purposeful life and changing the lives of others daily and they see it. They get it.
Then I had a mind shift. As a teenager in high school I sat in a classroom where I felt broken. I felt ignored and uncared for. I was scared to tell anyone. I made bad decisions and I didn’t ever think of tomorrow. Then a teacher who looked and acted very much like me made me the editor of student publications. A small tiny gift that changed my life and outlook on life forever.
I recognize the power I have in that room I walk into every single day and the fact that as I sit here typing this crying reminds me. I teach because of my girls. I teach because there are kids out there just like me that need a teacher like me. Teaching for me looks similarly to my mothering. I teach English and we read great books and we write. But I really teach confidence, overcoming, authenticity, agency, voice and power. I do that because when we find those things we find kindness and love.
Yesterday at lunch my girls each rushed through what they wanted to be when they grow up. One wants to be a chemist, the other a cake decorator (hang on a hot minute it can change quickly and did a few times while we were there) and the other wants to work at Culvers. They asked me what I wanted to be when I was their age. I thought for a minute and I laughed. They asked why and I said, “I wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to be a writer.” They got sad faced a little and said, “Oh.”
I said, “wait a minute….why are you sad? I have two degrees in writing. I teach writing. I teach others how to write.” I write every single day. They smiled and one of them proclaimed, “I want to be like you and do what I love, so I don’t hate going to work.” My heart soared. I smiled and said, “Exactly.”
So yes I mother a whole lot of kids in this world beyond my three girls. It is a part of my calling. I am doing what I am meant to do. I wake up every morning not just going about my life, but trying to make our lives better by making the people I come in contact with lives better than when they came to me. Leaving people better than when you got them isn’t that bad of a lesson to teach your children.
Sometimes that transformation is learning about commas, sometimes it is giving them confidence in being who they are and other times it is writing a college essay. The lessons I teach every day vary in depth and subject matter. For years I wondered if teaching with my heart was a weakness, but I realized there is nothing better than standing in a room full of teenagers and teaching them to be unapologetically themselves and support them in doing so. They need to see that. I am proud and honored for that privilege, but no more proud and honored than I am to teach it to my three baby girls.