Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why we teach...

The seed of who I am today was planted about 23 years ago. On September 7, 1988 I was on top of the world, ready to start my life as a fifth grader with who I thought was going to be the best teacher in the world. I nearly pissed myself with excitement when I found out at the end of fourth grade that Mr. Lansing was going to be my teacher. I remember practically bribing my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Towne to put me in his class. My brothers and sisters all had him and I was sure it was my destiny to be in his class.
September 8th, 1988; the rug was pulled out from under me. Oh sure, he was funny and made things interesting but who wants a teacher that has expectations for you. He gave us homework and made us think. How dare he. September dragged into October, through November and then December. I remember my parents coming home from conferences in early December and expressing their disappointment that I was not doing my homework or, as Mr Lansing told them, living up to my potential. What potential? I sure didn't feel like I had any potential. I knew that I would just be a warehouse worker like my brother or work some other menial job like my parents. They told me that he expected great things from me. GREAT THINGS? Whatever, whats my punishment?
In January, Mr Lansing started keeping me after school for not doing my homework. I really didn't care much because I always walked home though the alleys to an empty house and just sat in front of the TV eating Doritos and drinking Coke. At least here there was other people around. While I was doing my work, he would talk to me about dreaming of possibilities and how smart I was. I knew I didn't feel smart but little by little he gave me confidence and the encouragement soaked in. He never gave up on me and taught me to never give up on myself.
It has been a long road to get where I am now. There are lots of people who helped shape who I am. I have many memories of my teachers, some good and some bad. I remember things that happened in class and consequences for my actions. I never did get any better about doing my homework but I did get better at how I feel about myself. Mr. Lansing helped me be a little bit better of a student but most of all he made me feel like a better person.
Most of you in education can relate to my story. There was probably a teacher at some point in your life that touched your life in some way. Many of us went into education because we wanted to pay it forward and be a positive influence in children's lives. As we go through the daily grind of teaching; testing, data, testing, data, behaviors, testing, data, etc....remember, you came to teaching because you felt a deeper purpose. To accomplish something as profound as changing a life, you need patience, understanding, and the understanding that you may never actually see the fruits of your labor. Take with you the small victories and keep your head high. All you can do is plant the seed.