Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Twenty Years

Yesterday I returned to work for the first Teacher Workshop day of the new school year. As part of the morning’s traditional schedule, teachers who have worked for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or more years were recognized. I was called to the front of the gymnasium to receive a little token. I have been a full time English teacher in the district for 20 years.

There have been many times in the last twenty years when I have questioned what I am doing in this life. When my children were young I had doubts about being a working mom and fears that my children needed me at home to grow to be good people. It did not take long for me to have my worries dispelled. My children thrived. My decision to teach full time and to raise my three children with the help of some beautiful people (Janet, Alys, Bob, Denise, Darlene), may not be the right decision for everyone but I have no regrets. My babies (now aged 19, 16, 11) are indeed good people. I am a very proud Mom.

Over the past two decades, I also have second guessed my decision to enter the teaching profession. It has not been an easy career. But if I know anything at all, I know one thing: I am a damn good teacher. I don’t say this from a place of arrogance. I do not believe that every teacher should teach as I do. Rather, I simply recognize that I have made a positive impact of a large number of students in the past 20 years and doing that takes a lot of hard work, a natural set of skills, a patient and accepting personality, and great intuition. I realize I made mistakes along the way. There are bound to be former students who did not have a positive experience in my classroom. I wish I could say otherwise. And I do not know for how many more years I can do this job. I have never planned to be a teacher for the rest of my working life. I take this career one year at a time and I make absolutely no promises. But it was not a mistake for me to become a teacher and it was not a mistake for me to teach 20 years at the same high school. This I know for sure.

Confidence is a beautiful thing. It can take the shape of a sweet 16 year old student whose eyes meet the teacher’s with enthusiasm and an open heart. It can appear in a quick email sent by a college freshman to her former high school English teacher, or it can take the form of that 43 year old teacher who, despite knowing she still has a lot to learn, can still enter a classroom of teenagers with an authentic smile and an honest pledge to continue doing her very best to do right by each of them.

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