Can I finally unpack?

teaching

This school year was unreal on so many levels and I am not sure I entirely realized it until I watched our class of 2017 walk across the stage. Our principal did a run down of all of the accomplishments of the school and as he did a run down I suddenly felt like you do if you are sitting in a church hearing a sermon and like they are talking directly to you. I shook my head, I began to cry and I wiped my eyes as I smiled ear to ear.

I have not talked a lot about what I have been through professionally this year because I was worried it would come across as bragging or hurt my fellow teachers who work just as hard and furiously as I do. Teaching isn’t a single player sport. It requires collaboration, team work and the support and sometimes flat out job carrying of others to get through.

More than anything…nothing about my job is about me. I don’t teach for me. Sure I get a paycheck, but when I walk into that room or I support a student outside of my classroom it is never about me. I had the blessing to find a job that helps bring out my best attributes and fulfills a passion I never knew I held so deeply. As well, I am not even sure I can correctly articulate the wonderful things that happen at my school or in my classroom and there are many times I scratch my head and wonder if this is how every teacher feels.

But to get to the point of what I want to unpack is that a professional high that happened for me this year and it so hard to even put into words and even now months later I cannot even explain it. A local public radio interviewer came to do piece on my student population and I was picked to have them in my classroom and had the pleasure of recommending students for the piece to be interviewed. I was also interviewed. The feature ended up being picked up statewide and then nationally in an NPR piece.

And while I appreciated all that, I wish I could bottle the way I felt hearing and watching my students interact with Claire. The pride and excitement of what my students have had to overcome to change their worlds and just how they do that. I stand in awe on a regular basis.

Well the hub bub died down and then we got a call that our state’s former first lady (Judy O’Bannon) wanted to come and visit with our kids after hearing about the NPR piece. The former first lady who takes up educational issues. She also has a documentary type show where she features foreign lands and tries to make connections, so that the world seems a little less big. She has always traveled abroad for the show.

Then she heard our story and realized there is a story that fulfills her criteria right here in Indiana. She interviewed our local community, our mayor and then ended up again in my makeshift classroom and with my students. Again, I got to beam with pride. But there wasn’t much better than the moment she sat down alone to interview me and asked about the conflict that is brought to my classroom based on the diversity in my school.

Something I hadn’t really thought about since my first year at my school. A question that I tackled and went back to my own mentor to seek guidance and support. Amazingly, I responded with my 5 years of wisdom I didn’t have back then and that is that, “Most of the time it is us adults with the conflict.” I followed up with there is a lot they could teach us. She said that was the perfect way to end and hugged me and thanked me with tears in her eyes for all I do for my students.

This isn’t just about a group of students to me. It isn’t just about a school or even my classroom. I am not getting attention because I am doing something so different then the teachers who teach beside me are doing. I am just giving a face/name/classroom to what is already happening.

This is what teaching is doing. It is working more hours than you are paid for, spending more in your classroom than you probably should, sitting back and realizing students can teach us things sometimes more than we can teach them and more than anything for me it is my passion. I do it because I have found my calling and talent and I can get paid.

If you pay any attention to this post don’t pay it to me. Pay it to a teacher. Maybe a teacher that meant a lot to you or changed your life. Say thank you. Hug them and tell them because it isn’t always easy. It is exhausting quite frankly and many times I have driven home and updated my resume and decided to get out altogether. But then there is that one student….the one who shouts your name as you are leaving graduation from across the room and mouths thank you and places their hand on their heart. Yea, I cried.

So to unpack….yea it was a year…but every one is. – MR

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