Today I commented on a facebook conversation between two of my former students. In response, this was posted on my wall:
“Since you Facebook creeped on us, I think I’m allowed to do a bit to you. Both my siblings are older than you and you taught me one of the most influential classes of my high school career. As a matter of fact, Comparative Gov was the reason why I decided to go into the direction in which I’m headed; so for that, I’d like to thank you! Guess I never did that when I was 16. Hope being back in college is doing you well Ms. Watts!!!”
I am Facebook friends with a select few of former students that I developed bonds with over their four years of high school. Most of them are not only former students of mine, but also former tennis players that I coached. We spent many weekends, spaghetti suppers together, and long bus rides late at night. They have seen me drool while sleeping sitting up, watched as I snuck in runs before and after practice, asked about boyfriends, and discussed girl issues together. There are also a select few students who made me laugh in class, came for help afterwards, and knew how to push my buttons in just the way that either made me laugh for minutes and totally digress my lecture, or made me red in the face irritated.
The latter of those students would be S, the author of the above quote. He tugged at my heart strings-big time.
I was never the best teacher who should have won a blue ribbon. I was stretched thin with 5 preps (that means 5 different classes to teach each semester) in a core content area. Two of these classes were AP and highly demanding. I had a hard time keeping up with grading and most of my lesson plans were developed in my head during my morning run and written on sticky notes as I walked into my classroom. The first 2 years that I taught I did not even have my own classroom. If you want to know the ills of public education, I might be able to tell you a thing or two. I am a full time graduate student because of burn out from the system, not because of a lack of love for those students or the time in the classroom.
The days were roller coasters and the time flew by. Sometimes I sucked. Sometimes they sucked. Sometimes we sucked together. But, most days I rocked my freshly planned lesson, blew their socks off, and in return they blew my socks off. They rocked the discussions sessions, improved with each paper, and cracked the jokes that kept me smiling all day. I miss being needed like that. I miss those moments of epiphany. Those moments when they got “it.” Those times at parent teacher conferences when parents said, “we were just discussing your class at dinner last night…”
When I was little I played teacher. I had a clip board, a white board, and my Aunt’s old high heels. Actually, I wanted to be anyone that did anything in a school-including a bus monitor and bus driver. The bus driver dream did not come true, but teaching did.
Right now I am chasing another dream. I have not posted in a few days because I have not been running (that’s a lie, I did a speed workout yesterday), I have not skied in over two weeks, and besides walking a new dog three times a day, I am completely en wrapped in my work as a graduate student. I taught a lesson yesterday in an environmental justice class, I am doing archival research with a grant, and surprisingly people are interested in what I am doing and each day more meetings are being set up for me to discuss my project. A project that could very well help an entire community of people.
It feels good. So good, that I have a cold and I skipped three days of working out this week and I don’t care. It is restoring my confidence. The same confidence I had when I was S’s teacher. We never know whose life we may be helping, whether directly or indirectly, but we must be confident that what we do every day, whether small or large or direct or indirect that we are helping others to gain confidence and direction in their lives too. Thanks S for reminding why I did it and why I will continue to do it.
Where do you find inspiration in your life?
What dreams have come true for you?