Teaching is not a glamorous profession. It is often looked down upon by those not in the field, teachers are blamed for many things that are well beyond their control, and a teacher’s salary is not always commensurate with the amount of education and effort that it takes to be one and remain one.
However, usually, that’s not the reason that someone gets into this profession in the first place. “Summers off”, for those who are in it for the right reasons, are not truly off, and if they are, they are well deserved from all of the evenings, weekends, and school breaks that are spent planning, grading, and trying to rejuvenate. All professions come with their ups and downs, yet not all professions are felt to be the expertise of all people. Just because we all may have gone to school does not mean we all have a degree in education. And just because we have a degree in education, does not mean we know it all. But this is all part of the territory, the world of a teacher.
What also is part of the world of a teacher, although not necessarily in abundance, are those incredible moments when you learn how much you have affected the life of one of your students. A moment where what you did on the regular became the extraordinary. I have been fortunate enough in my teaching career to have some very memorable moments, students and experiences, but now that I have stepped away from teaching for awhile, I really didn’t expect that I still might.
There are a few very special students from my first year at NWSD who graduated in 2014 with whom I have remained in contact and who have become more than former students. They have become friends. I have been able to watch them pursue their education, life paths, and dreams for the future. We don’t stay in constant contact, but they do reach out from time to time with updates, and even once in awhile let me play the teacher and ask for some help.
One such student I have stayed in touch with is named Rachel. Rachel was a teacher’s assistant in my classroom after leaving my freshman class, was involved in the I Remember Committee as well as the class officer/prom committees that I ran for her entire grade. Watching her traverse her way through what life threw her in high school, the good times and the very hard, were a privilege as she let me play an important role in her life. She has continued to include me as she has grown, and recently reached out to me for help with completing a life dream of hers that she has had since a 6th grade student. Her 6th grade goal for herself was to start a non-profit by the time that she turned 21. As that birthday was quickly approaching, she made contact hoping for some creative guidance, and I have offered her my assistance as she proceeds through this process, about which I hope to be writing with more details soon.
Then on March 1, with the beginning of the Lenten season, she reached out to me again, but this time with a very unexpected message.
Hi. I am not very religious anymore, but I wanted to do something for Lent and every time I give up something I want to add something, so I’m giving up negative comments/swearing, but I’m also gong to choose a different person every day that’s positively impacted my life and thank them for that. So I wanted to start with you. Besides all of the English and academic things you taught me, you inspired me to want to be the change you want to see in the world, and its had a big impact on my college and life decisions, so I thank you for that [heart] and you remind me you can literally do it all while still having fun.
This is it. This is the part of teaching that pulls you in and keeps you going against all the new laws, new educational fads, new requirements. When the paper work piles up, and the load seems large, and the kids seem difficult to reach. And even when you step away from the job, the rewards can still keep coming in the most unexpected ways.
So to those teachers, in schools and at home, as your pushing through this crazy month of March with the snow delays, impending testing, cooped up students, and whatever else may be going on, take a deep breath, walk into that classroom, and go do what you do best. Touch lives. Impart as much wisdom as you can. Be there for your students, and know, in your heart, whether you see it on paper or not, you are making a difference. And take the time to thank your students for making one in your life as well.