Today I cried at school.
Curious? Perhaps you’re thinking I dealt with an irate parent. Or possibly an unruly student. Nope. Neither one of those. Please allow me to back up a bit, and explain.
Many years ago, someone (and someone in the field of education, mind you) told me that those who are passionate about kids teach in the elementary school, and those who are passionate about subject matter teach in the middle school and high school. Since that time, I have pondered those words frequently, always coming to the same conclusion. And each time I came to that conclusion, I felt a fair amount of guilt. What kind of teacher was I, if I didn’t feel as passionate about my students, as I felt about the subject matter I was teaching them? Unless I taught at the elementary school level, I was not teaching for the “right” reason.
This past summer my “dream job” presented itself (middle school language arts). I knew in my heart that this was the right decision for me, but I still felt a fair amount of anxiety and nervousness, as I was faced with being a rookie once again. I knew elementary school. I had lived in that world for 13 years. It was comfortable. Plus, I felt that I was admitting to the world, that I was more passionate about writing than I was about the kids I taught. Ouch. But my passion was writing, and this was an opportunity for me to share my passion with others.
So that brings me to today. Today is the day I learned a big lesson. (Which is rather ironic, given the fact that I have been teaching my classes “the time I realized something” makes for a powerful narrative.)
My sixth hour class had just been dismissed, and I was busy scribbling some observational notes in my binder, when I glanced up to see one of my students standing in front of me. There stood beautiful brown eyed, brown haired Gabi, dressed in red athletic shorts, and a black “Rocket Rowdie” t-shirt, hugging her books close to her chest, smiling shyly, and trying very hard to maintain eye contact with me.
In the classroom Gabi had been rather soft spoken, but as of late had been engaging herself in classroom discussions. Today when I was making the rounds, and checking in with students, Gabi had asked me to listen to her talk out her story to see if the lesson she wanted her readers to learn was evident. She shared the time she had tried out for a basketball team and wanted so desperately to impress the other girls who were trying out, that she had made a complete fool of herself. She wanted to make sure her writing showed the lesson she had learned, the importance of just being yourself. I had been impressed with the depth of her thinking.
As she stood in front of me, I was thinking that she wanted to share her completed story with me, so I was not ready when she hesitantly said,
“Mrs. Hovie, I just wanted you to know, that I’ve never liked writing, but this year I absolutely love it. I just wanted to thank you for that.”
While I know I replied something appropriate back to her…something about how much I enjoyed having her in class, and how much I was impressed with the life lesson she had shared in her story…I was profoundly affected. I could feel my throat get tight, and my eyes well up with tears. Never in my teaching career had I felt so sure that I was exactly where I needed to be and doing exactly what I needed to be doing. Gabi’s life lesson: just be yourself.
While I thought that teaching anything other than elementary school meant I wasn’t passionate for my students, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sharing my passion for writing has allowed me to develop relationships with the students I work with. Each and everyday when I sit beside them and listen to their stories, I am developing a relationship, strengthening a bond. After only one month, I already feel so connected to so many of my students.
So thank you, Gabi, for showing me that by sharing my passion, and just being myself, I can make a difference.