Recently several colleagues contacted me about an opening at a local, large museum—the head of the education department. Such an opportunity is rare. The position became availably only because of a retirement—after 30 years in the job. With my background in education, museums, and archaeology, I would be a strong candidate.
But instead of submitting my application, I want to submit something else: my thanks. I would like to thank all the students, parents, and colleagues who continue to inspire me to be my best self: a teacher.
Colleagues like Ali inspire me every day. She’s a first grade teacher who taught me the value of a beautiful classroom environment that’s uniquely her own. And Kris inspires me every day as she continues every day to find her own style in teaching, despite the demands of too many outside influences.
Other parents give me valuable lessons in both humbleness and self-awareness. Tracey challenged me to think about my own teaching (and the strength of her love) as we struggled to find a balance with her son’s unique needs.
But most of all, my students over the past several years have taught me valuable lessons about myself and about life. Talbot shows me every day the power of simple wonder, as his eyes light up over a simple lesson or at the beauty of a sunny day. Chase cracks me up with exploits of his crazy cockatoo.
Dakota, a student with autism, taught me to slow down with her careful attention to detail and beautiful slow cadence. Both helped me to be more present. Children don’t live in the tomorrow– all we need is this present moment.
Dasie, a student who had been homeschooled several years before coming to my classroom, spent the first few weeks of school crying so loudly I had sit her in the hallway. But with counseling, she can self-talk her way out of her anxiety. Only later did we learn she suffered from Asperger’s.
Five years ago, I would have jumped at the museum opportunity: designing children’s programs and researching exhibits are perfect for me. I’ve worked in a similar position at a smaller museum for four years. I thought I wanted to be a teacher then because I enjoyed working with the kids so much. A teacher friend talked me out of it because “I wouldn’t like being around kids all day.” Now, I can’t imagine not being around them all day.
Ten years later, I realize that being around children all day brings all this joy into my life.
I used be disengaged and bored with the tedium of my work in a museum or as an archaeologist. I knew there had to be something more. Every day as I look into my students’ faces, talk to parents, and watch teachers inspire, I know what was missing.
I’m thrilled about the possibilities of the coming year, too. Everyone has inspired me to share my days through blog posts. My colleagues near and far inspired me to create a course to help other bring back the joy in teaching—I want everyone to try it. And I’m about to begin my next endeavor for Being Teacher with writing a book on maintaining balance and sustaining joy in teaching.
So I want to thank all the students who have crossed through my classroom and my life, from Alexa who threw lamps across the room, to Martin who made me cry when he finally learned his multiplication facts. You’ve all been my teachers. So, thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for letting me be your teacher.