09 September 2014

#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 9: One life has breathed easier because you have lived

It was pretty cool getting messages from two different teachers that I've long admired--and often imitated--warning me that they'd nominated be for FLANC Teacher of the Year. I mean, validation from your peers--your competent and cool peers, who know what's what--that's the mountaintop, isn't it?

I mean, if teaching is a mountain, it might be.

I didn't get the TOY nod in the end, but I still got part of that thrill that Emerson called success since I had written proof that I had "[won] the respect of intelligent people" and "[earned] the appreciation of honest critics."
Image from Eclectic Emily
But if teaching is a mountain and success is at the top, I am here to tell you that teachers can accomplish things that mean floating over the  mountaintop. These accomplishments still fit in Emerson's definition of success, really, but their effect goes beyond conquering some peak, or series of peaks. These accomplishments are not about climbing anything or being the best or brightest anything, except that version of yourself that you could and should be.

I laminated and taped a fancy printout of Emerson's definition of success to my rickety wooden stand in my first classroom years ago. Knowing in my heart that I have accomplished just three of the goals within the definition--and that I am capable of accomplishing them again--sets me free, in a way, of trying to get to the top of anything in particular. If I never get any award beyond reminding myself of these three girls and what they brought out in me, I can die an accomplished teacher.

Find the best in others
I don't know if she'll actually end up a translator like she says she wants to. I honestly hope she ends up a teacher, because though she drove (drives?) her classmates and teachers crazy, she is a bright and patient person. She might have anger she doesn't know what to do with some of the time--a lot of the time--but she can deconstruct math and language and concepts that just come naturally to her in a way that makes everything come clear to the most confused in the room. She might buck authority just for the fun of it sometimes, but within her there is a mature woman who can lead and play the game, who wants to get her emotions under control and show the world what she can do. She's in there even when she is barely resisting--or not resisting--the urge to cuss to my face. And she's going to be great.

Leave the world a bit better
I used to look at Hispanics in the store and wish they'd go home. Now I look at them and wonder, "Why are they here? Where are their families?" I have moved classrooms three times since "Margarita" wrote me that letter, so the actual wording is lost to me now, but the meaning is written inside me. After reading and discussing a few of Sandra Cisneros' short stories in Spanish I (this is when I was a newly minted Spanglish teacher, uninitiated in the ways of teaching in the target language), apparently her whole world view shifted. "Margarita" is a mother of two now, and though her political views projected on Facebook are not always what I'd call generous, I know that she will raise those two little boys to look beyond differences and see through other people's eyes.

Know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
I only visited her mom once in the hospital before she passed, and I was way in the back at the funeral. I didn't see her baby born, but I got to go to his first birthday party and her graduation in the same year. We went out to eat and went shopping before she went to college. She is my two-year-old's hero. I am not a replacement mother by any means, but she knows if she needs something, whether it's pizza and an hour or two out of the house or twin sheets and a shower caddy, she will have them. I can't undo her pain, but I can help her breathe.

So if you have done any of these things, or if you are ready to do them, you, teacher, are a success. If you can recall students who have helped you accomplish these things already, you are soaring over the mountaintops.

1 comment:

  1. Laura, I love reading your reflection posts. Thank you so much for sharing!