Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, a day for Chipotle to give out free burritos and for little children to bring in fistfuls of tulips to their favorite teachers. Not a bad sentiment really, (although I apologize to my offsprings’ mentors since we did not remember the tulips or burritos on this hurried Tuesday morning.)
Today, however, I think it is a good day to appreciate BEING a teacher. This often-debated job is a great way to make a living….and a life.
I always say that teaching is a game of moments. In the past eighteen years, there have definitely been moments that have brought me to my knees, stolen my breath, made me laugh, cry and feel. There have been moments when I was positive that this was the exact WRONG job for me, and moments when this career could not be more right. I have seen things that I wish their parents could: a moment of discovery, a smile of pride, an act of friendship. And I have seen countless moments that the students never thought I thought I noticed: the most heart-warming kindnesses, and the most heinous of bullying.
I am humbled to think that around 1200 students have sat in the desks in front of me over these many years. They have all left a piece of themselves behind. I remember Chris’s metaphor that blew me away: “The football field is an angry boy’s heaven.” Or the way I hugged Bridget as she sobbed about her grandma. I can remember Geoff’s poetry analysis of William Carlos Williams like it was yesterday, although 17 years have passed since he last left my class. Or the way Amanda gave a fantastic speech about a serious illness that had changed her life.
Through nearly two decades, I hope that I have shared my love of communicating, that they all know where to place the commas and how to write with imagery. I hope they can find a metaphor in a story, and always remember to get the work done first before they play.
But I don’t think they understand how I love them. How I pray for these students past and present and what will happen to them. How I hope that the lessons and discipline I have tried to instill will ripple when they leave my class. How I wish for them a job that offers moments like they have offered me: the beautiful glimpses of life and discovery that leave you with goosebumps and tears. And the knowledge that they are working towards something greater than themselves. And I even wish them the hard stuff too, which makes the good moments that much sweeter.
I am still in awe of the paths these students have taken. Joe is doing art gallery showings in San Francisco, and Maggie is choreographing musical theatre in Chicago. Bryan is a busines man in Columbus, and Emily is studying architecture in New York City. Bridget is returning home to find a kindergarten teaching job, and Kyle is serving our country in Afghanistan. So many choices and paths and moments, makes me appreciate our cosmic intersection in time.
So yes, I appreciate teaching. I appreciate the learners that have graced these desks, and the lessons they have revealed to me. I appreciate the words they have written and the trust they have shown me. I admire their moxy and the energetic lenses through which they see the world. A burrito or tulip won’t be enough to say it today, but I am thankful for all of them and all of the moments we have shared.