I was born near the end of my dad’s first year of teaching, and 43 years later, having my birthday on or near the last day of school has always been a gift in itself.
School has always been a part of my life. Nine months of hard, energy-draining work and three months of rest — if you can really call it rest. As a student and as a teacher, I’ve always loved school, so trying to define that moment when I fell in love with the world of education is difficult.
My love for teaching has been a lot like riding on a roller coaster, filled with days when I never feel like I’ll reach the top, but also exhilarating moments where I am on cloud nine, ready for the next ride. As the tasks, challenges and even requirements seem to get harder with each passing year, I have so many moments in my mind that seem to put everything in perspective. Meaningful memories, where I am able to envision certain students, specific circumstances and even precise occasions that have occurred during my 20-plus years of teaching, remind me that I am definitely on the path created for me. They are a sum of the good and the bad and everything in between that revive my spirit. And on the days when it’s been hard to “love” teaching, I know that tomorrow will be a new day and the “love” will return — or at least I pray it will.
A few of the moments I hold near and dear are:
• The first day of my first year teaching first grade when Charlie walked in with the postcard I had sent him in hand — thanking me for sending it, but informing me that if he was honest, he didn’t appreciate it one bit because he could not read yet. Charlie — a student who made my first year amazing and crazy at the same time. Charlie — a student I will never forget.
• The green eggs and ham breakfast that Judy Bracher and I served to our first-graders on March 2 every year to honor our love of books, and striped hats and all things Dr. Seuss.
• The birthday party I attended with eight of my students one weekend — playing musical chairs and eating cake in Helena’s home. I’m sure I became human that day in their eyes.
• Singing Christmas carols to the residents of Rose Arbor Assisted Living and watching every one of my second-grade students exhibit amazing character without instruction.
• Making a home visit because I wanted to — not because I had to. The novel study that my fourth-grade class didn’t want to come to an end, and the tears we shed together when our favorite character died in “Charlotte’s Web.”
• Receiving a letter this summer from a former student thanking me for being one of the best teachers she had ever had, but also apologizing that she hadn’t paid attention like she should have. If she only knew how much I had wished I had a whole classroom full of students just like her that year.
• Thanksgiving feasts, assemblies, field trips, spelling tests, laptop projects, time tests, journal writing, library books, math centers, the life cycle, the food pyramid, art fairs, book making, and so much more.
Looking back, it’s obvious that I am making a difference in the lives of children, and there are so many of my fellow educators who are too. I’m still falling in love with teaching, and, honestly, if it wasn’t a work in progress I’d be concerned. It’s not something I’ve perfected or mastered at all because to love something means you’re willing to work at it — even on the longest of days when you’ve got nothing left to give. It means you’re willing to set aside frustrations and anxiety, and truly give it your all. It demonstrates that you’re making a choice every day to attempt new things, and to give the tasks, content, and those precious students entrusted in your care your very best. That’s what love is. And for me love is making the choice to greet each day as an opportunity, a chance and a hope for the best, whispering to myself that this day will be better than all the rest.
Teaching isn’t for everyone, but I’m pretty confident saying after 21 years, I was born for it.