Friday, August 19, 2016

READY! (Well, almost)

I've been doing it for more than twenty years now: going back to school. As Labor Day looms ahead, I generally mourn the time I lost over the summer by not finishing the Great American Novel or cleaning out all my closets. Then I pull my shoulders back, put my chin up, and resolutely march
back into the school year. Many times in the past years, summer has been a disaster and I welcome the structure of school.

But it's been a good summer. Probably the best summer we've had since 1998, when bipolar disorder began to rule our lives and the kids and I learned to live on an emotional roller coaster. Unlike, say the summer of 2014, I did not spend every other week at Hahnemann Hospital while Ron had ketamine infusions that ultimately damaged his heart. Or the summer of 1999 when Ron's battles with clinical depression sent him to Friends' Hospital in Philadelphia for six weeks. Or even last summer when Ron was just home from a six week stay at Eagleville Hospital and a bladder infection demanded I take him for a shot every day for two weeks and Allen had  just been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Oh, and I'd lost my job and had the added stress of trying to find a new teaching position in a still-fragile economy.

This summer has been full of trips to the beach, of lunches out with friends, of times spent working on my knitting or blogging. I've read books and watched movies and have not once ventured anywhere near a hospital except for seeing ophthalmologists about the failing vision in my right eye. Allen and I have painted the living room and installed a new sink and even though I haven't gotten the patio I've wanted for the last three years or finished up my own great American novel, I have a sense of satisfaction. I'm still here, still kicking, still hoping that someday I will  be a full time writer.

And I'm ready to head back to school. Well, almost. I've got more than a week left of my summer vacation and I intend to enjoy what remains of it. But I'm also excited by the new classes I will teach this year and the chance to make a difference in the lives of all of my students, from the little ones all the way up to the adults.

As a career, teaching is unique in that we get a chance, every year or every term, to begin anew. We greet new students or teach new classes or, as I am doing again, embrace new schools. Our job is to help our students--whoever they are--be the best they can be. While every teacher I know needs some time over the summer to recharge for the task ahead, most of us recognize that teaching is not just a paycheck. It's a higher calling. Remember Christa McAuliffe, the First Teacher in Space, who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986? She knew teaching was a high calling.  As she headed off on that fatal mission, she told the world, "I touch the future, I teach."

And it's not always easy. State standards and common core have made teaching harder than it used to be. We do a lot of things that, strictly speaking, are not teaching. And we spend hours outside of school preparing our lessons and scouring Pinterest for great ideas and lurking in the aisles of teacher stores, coupons in hand because we frequently reach into our own pockets for items we need for our kids. It's easy, amid all the spreadsheets and prep for high stakes testing and keeping up our own Act 48 credits, to lose sight of just why we teach.

I know why. I touch the future. But more than just touching the future,   I shape the future. I have the opportunity--the privilege--to change the life of a child. Or an adult. Not only can I teach them to read and critically think, I can teach them to believe in themselves. While I may often drag into school weary from caring for my disabled husband and coping with my vision issues, I  make it a point at the door to slap on my smile and my positive attitude. Sometimes, I may be the first smile my student sees.

So, I go back. Again. Not because I need the money (and I do). Not because I am not quite old enough to retire (and I'm not). But because after twenty years and more educational pendulum swings than I can recall, after years spent in undergrad school and grad school and post grad school, I still believe that our best chance for changing the future is education. After all this time, I've finally figured it all out

It begins with building relationships. One student at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment