Monday, June 29, 2009

To write love on his arms

I'm in Boston for the summer working as a residential counselor for a prestigious summer dance program. Last night I was working a double in the boys' dorm and I was able to really earn my keep in quite a teaching moment.

I had a resident wander in and I noticed his disposition was off. He's normally bubbly and enthusiastic, but last night he was quite reserved. I kept asking him what was wrong and he kept saying he was alright. Of course, I didn't believe him and a couple hours later he was ready to talk.

It turns out, this kid's story isn't too far off from mine. Life for us ain't been no crystal stair. I apologized for knowing exactly how he felt. Stories like ours are not easy to hear, let alone tell, but I was able to listen to him, validate his experiences and give him valuable advice where others would have just said "I don't know what to say." those are the most difficult words to hear after you pour your heart out to another person. I am grateful I've been through enough adversity to not have to say that to him.

Instead, I wrote love on his arms and let him know that he's not alone. As long as l am around, he's got someone in his corner who knows EXACTLY where he's coming from.

I'm grateful for that moment last night and I'm glad I was able to be what he needed in that moment. I have been fortunate enough to have people who helped me when I was in his position. I'm glad I finally got to pay it forward.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Saturday, June 13, 2009

P.S. I Totally Finished Grad School

It took a while, but I did it. :)

Upon Completion of My First Year of Teaching

Last week I finished my first year of teaching. I am supremely proud of myself and of the things I have learned in the year. I was a long term substitute and I was basically thrown to the wolves. I didn't mind. As I explained to the Dean of my department, I have been thrown to the wolves all my life for much less. This time, my lesson in sinking or swimming was about my new career and it was particularly fitting that it began in the way it did.

I have learned a lot about myself and other people in the last year. I wanted to take this time to share a couple of them with you.

1. There will be haters everywhere you go.
Using the term "haters" is not the most academic, but it is the most applicable to my situation. In fact, it is applicable to most employment situations. I have/had (I don't have a contract for the fall as of yet) this one woman who tried her hardest to break me. At one point, she did. She berated me so bad over something so small, I ended up in tears. Because she is a big fat meanie head, this made her very happy. When I got home and told my mother, she warned me that all this woman was trying to do was to intimidate me and, ultimately, push me out. She told me to keep doing what I am doing because I have made a name for myself in the school. She was right. I have made a name for myself. I stopped talking to the woman and I stopped absorbing her negative energy. In the past few weeks, she has noticed this and started coming into my room asking me for things. Sure, her intentions are not entirely pure, but now I know it's not my fault. She, as my mother says about people who have issues, "got some stuff with her."

2. Teaching is the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever chosen to do.
I often tell people that teaching is my accidental calling. I was a substitute teacher while looking for a full time job in Grad school. I spent a lot of time in pre K and high school. Though PreK will always have my heart, I enjoyed the conversations I had with the high schoolers. They were smart. They were funny. They had so much drive and determination. This was something I was never able to see in my peers when I was in high school. I decided that not only could I do this job, but I could do it better than most.
I researched, applied, sent in paperwork, got things notarized, took the PRAXIS - twice. I got certified. In October. Inconvenient for a FT teaching job, but I had the long term substitute position fall into my lap. The rest is, as they say, history.
Teaching is difficult. It is arduous. It is time consuming, but it is also incredibly rewarding. I have managed to touch the lives of young people all year. I had a girl who considered herself a dumb jock write me an incredible short story and start enjoying literature again. I had one kid tell me (though I could not look at him when he said it) that I challenged him and made him think and that he is a better student because of me. I have parents of difficult students coming up to me telling me that their children have never been so successful in English. They are grateful for my patience with their children. I had a student with a "learning disability" get the second highest grade in my class. All he needed was a boost of confidence and a little extra time. The faculty and staff commended me at our last inservice because of my work with the kids. One teacher remarked about a particular advisee who hates everyone but for some reason "worships the ground I walk on." She was my toughest student.

In a year as, say, an administrative assistant, I never could have made this much impact on others. I believe that I was meant to become a teacher and my first year only served to solidify my beliefs.

As of right now, I have no idea if I will be continuing to teach where I am now. Even if I am not there in the fall, I know I can do this job. I know I am capable of making a difference in this world through my students, which is all I ever wanted to do.