Why I Teach

Yesterday, I blogged about distractions that arise at the start of a new school year. When I went to bed last night, I vowed to be more focused today.

The day started in a promising manner. I had an opening shift at my other job, so I planned to work from home this evening on some of my class websites. I woke up early, dressed as SuperSalesGal and headed out the door. I went to the bank, picked up some goodies for my coworkers at the bakery and dropped by the post office. My day was off to a roaring (and productive) start.

And then it all came crashing to a halt. I received a phone call from my dad saying that my great aunt was in the hospital and they didn’t think she would make it much longer. My mom and dad happened to be visiting her when she started feeling sick and stayed with her and my uncle through the ordeal. My dad said my mom amazed him in the way she handled everything.

I didn’t know my great aunt all that well. We lived in separate states and didn’t see each other often. She was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer a few months ago, so in a way, I expected this call. Still, the news was like a weight tied around my heart. And it dragged down my motivation and focus with it.

And then I received a visit from a former student. This girl was on my yearbook staff and we had formed a special bond over the years. She stopped by the store to say hello before she leaves for college next week. Maybe it was my morose mood projecting upon everyone in my vicinity , but her visit quickly turned from cheerful to somber as she tearfully confessed her fears as she prepared for this major change. She said, “I wish I were going back to HighSchool*. I’m so scared.”

I thought to myself, “Is this the same kid who had a countdown going until graduation?” but I kept the thought to myself and launched into teacher mode instead. I hugged her and empathized. I told her how scared I was my first day of college and we laughed about some of the stories. Then I told her I believed in her…that she was SO ready for this…that I was so excited for her. I made her promised to send me pictures of her dorm room and to visit when she was in town. And I made her some makeup samples. When all else fails, try lip gloss. 😉

That weight was still tied around my heart, but my mind was no longer on my sadness. A part of me was with my former student now. Her fears were my fears, just as her hopes became my own. And I was reminded why I’ve stuck with this job for 8 years and counting. It isn’t for the power or fabulous pay. It’s not even for the summer vacations. It’s for the opportunity to make a difference in an individual’s life. It’s for the students. (And the snow days…)

I never got my productive zen back after my shift, but I did manage to spend the past hour prepping the first week of lessons for my senior level course. And, in the end, I think today was still a pretty big success.

*English teachers, please don’t freak out and correct me on my spelling of “high school.” I’m protecting the innocent here and using that as a replacement for the name of the actual school. Also, please ignore all other mistakes in this post and forever (in this blog). 😉

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