Summer is in its last throes. Teachers and students who have been totally immersed in the freedom of the brilliant days and soft nights of July and August are beginning to let thoughts of the coming year creep into their consciousness. School has a beautiful and unique rhythm to it, all its own. One of the great gifts of being a teacher, or a student, for that matter, is the ability to begin each year anew. We have a completely blank slate; new students, new teachers, new classes, and always, new beginnings.
My prayer is that as you begin this season of learning, that you aren’t simply good at doing your job; but that you reconnect to your purpose. You didn’t enter teaching to satisfy the educational achievement “bean counters”. You didn’t walk into your first classroom with a desire to keep things as they have always been. You entered teaching because you wanted to serve children.
My prayer is that you stay true to the feeling that led you to this wonderful profession. Look out at the great expanse of the coming year and remember that every one of the students you will encounter offers you a gift; the gift of themselves. Each of them is unique and each has his or her special gifts. Most of them look up to you, for you are the “living curriculum”. Commit yourself to being “that” teacher, the one that made such a positive difference in another’s life. Commit yourself to being “that” teacher for all your students, not just a chosen few.
“How is possible to impact each,?” you ask. It takes only a few moments of your full, open presence, and connection to plant a seed that will reveal beautiful blossoms at exactly the right time. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Woodruff, took time after class to praise my writing. She showed confidence in me by asking me to start the first class newspaper. We created one mimeographed issue of two pages. After that one issue, the paper died off; but a seed was planted in me. It only took a few minutes of Mrs. Woodruff’s time to change my life. She was attentive and made me feel unique. It’s all I ever wanted for my own children as they boarded the yellow school bus to take them to the magical place called school.
This is not an “either – or” proposition. You, my gifted friend, have the ability to make a difference in a child’s life while at the same time maintaining academic rigor.
Love the ones who are innocent and earnest. Love the ones that are brilliant and creative. Love those that are cynical, those that are afraid, and those that are compensating for their fear. Let them know that they ARE enough, just as they are. Love the ones that come with a mean streak and a soul that has been scarred by circumstance…it is they who need you most.
I pray this not only for them. For if you can learn to see their gifts and help them see them too; if you can see through their anger, indifference, and fear;, and not abandon them; you will be remembered always in their hearts. This is true immortality. This is the true gift of our work and our profession.
New York Times Photo