A past principal had a favorite saying: “Blessed be the flexible for they shall not break.” I only met this principal because throughout my teaching career, I’ve had to dig deep for growth mindset thinking as my active duty family trotted the globe.
This month is the 13th anniversary of finding my first teaching position after I had dedicated myself to teaching as a career. Prior to this, I had worked in the mental health field, returned to college to study chemistry, and taught one year of first grade at a charter school with no intent of staying in the education field. Thirteen years ago, I dedicated myself to my passion for teaching by taking a fourth grade position at a rural elementary school and I’ve never looked back.
Today I want to celebrate those thirteen years by sharing some career highlights. One of my number top accomplishments over my teaching career has been finding teaching positions in every new location. In each new town, village, and city, I have found opportunities to work in education. Prior to my current teaching position, the bulk of my educational experiences have led me to teach in rural schools with a Title I designation. Working in these schools has caused me to be a learner and a teacher. How do I best meet my students’ needs when they don’t know where they will live tonight? How can I make the curriculum relevant to my diverse learners? If my students think their parents will be taken by INS, how can they concentrate on my math lesson?
Thankfully, I haven’t had to navigate these tough situations alone, which leads me to my next career highlight: My colleagues. From the school secretary to the custodian to my teaching teams, I have repeatedly hit the workplace jackpot. Those hallway conversations, acrimonious staff meetings, and post-parent teacher conference debriefs were so valuable to me. From dressing up like rock-paper-scissors on Halloween to taking 100 students and 100 more parents on a train for a field trip overseas, my teaching colleagues and support staff have always been there for me. I’m so thankful for all of the para-educators who noticed when a student was struggling, the school secretary who would give my own kiddo candy every time she visited, and the school librarians who always found the technology supplies I needed. I am mindful of the great fortune I’ve had in working with the top teachers all over the country (and on one other continent!) and how they’ve challenged me to bring my best, most authentic self to the classroom.
And how could this blog post be complete without a shout out to my students? To say I’m thankful for the kids doesn’t quite cover it. I’m thankful for their patience when I really flubbed things up, for the hallway side-hugs, for the cupcakes left on my desk, and for their humor and grace. One student brought me tamales every Christmas-time, another brought empanadas. One student pointed out that my eyesight might be waning (“Mrs. C, girl, you need glasses!”) and she was right! One student invented a gesture for the reading skill, “making connections” that I still use to this day. One kiddo taught me that not all kids come to school with basic learning skills, and that they can grow and learn along with their peers. I am grateful for these experiences, in fact, the students and the memories we create together are the reason I get up in the morning.
Closing the door on 2020 means we’re now opening the door to 2021 –or maybe bailing out a window! Here’s to a teaching year of new accomplishments, connections with our students, and lots of learning.