As is my custom at the end of a school year, I usually write a reflective piece about that specific year just so I can get everything out in the open and thus enjoy my summer without regrets and what-ifs. This one, though, will be a little different. Having just finished my seventh year as an educator, I’m going to reflect on my career to this point. For readers of my previous blog posts, there won’t be much (if any) education policy wonk stuff, but I hope you enjoy it.
One more note of disclosure: I will be talking about some individuals that have brought me to this point. To respect their privacy, I will only use initials. In the event more than one person that I mention has the same initials (which I know for a fact will happen at least once), I will try to figure out a way to separate the two. If you do not see your initials, please do not think that you have not played an enormous role in helping me be the person I am today. I know I will omit some people that should rightfully be here and for that I truly apologize.
To say that I have worked with some amazing administrators and educators would be an understatement akin to calling the Pope sort of Catholic. The first set of administrators I ever had, RS and JG, gave me encouragement and constructive criticism exactly when I needed one or the other. They allowed me to grow as an educator and set me on the path to being the kind of teacher I wanted to be. They will always be the gold standard that I will compare school leaders to wherever my career leads me. Thank you.
The list of talented colleagues will be a long one, but here it goes. JW showed it is OK to be more than a little weird and still be effective (and, yes, he will know that is a compliment). SC (also known as Sra Sol) is the pinnacle of keeping a smile on your face in spite of ridiculous obstacles and hardships. RR and SA provided the kids care and compassion while still giving them the structure that many of them so desperately crave. I have known nobody else that was able to cultivate a student’s creativity like CN. He also let me know that encouraging similar creativity in the math classroom was OK. The other JG (this one male…and also known as Jesus) taught me that it was alright to get on the kids level and give them the occasional ‘real talk’. Finding humor or adding a snarky comment, even in the most difficult situations, is a trait of MT (formerly MM) and KB that I hope their current colleagues appreciate as much as I did when I worked with them. Two different people, both MC, helped me through my year in Special Education. Somehow, someway, they slog through the endless paperwork and non-existent accolades to help those who need it most. QL manages to combine real data analysis with true talent in the classroom to get the most out of his kids.
I would not be the educator I am without each of you (and many, many others that I have not mentioned, for which I am sorry). I am sure I have not thanked you in person. Perhaps I should also apologize because I have stolen at least a part of your technique and tried to integrate it into what I do, though nowhere near as effectively as you. You have each inspired hundreds (if not thousands) of young men and women to be better…and at least one 44 year old guy.
I pretty much knew I wanted to be a math teacher when I was taking Geometry in high school. I saw the beauty in math…the way I could do a proof differently than another student or even my teacher but have it still be valid and right. But, after college, life went a different direction…in no small part of being terrified of standing in front of a room with 20+ sets of teenage eyeballs staring at me. I finally jumped into the deep end of that pool in the 2007-2008 school year. With all due respect to my colleagues past and present, the students I have had the privilege to have in my classrooms since then deserve the bulk of the credit not only for the educator I am, but for the person I am. I will again leave some people out, but I’ll apologize for that now and again later on.
This first set of students are from my first four years as a teacher. TA, MH, GV and MY have placed their trust in me since their middle school years, and continue to do so. I hope I have lived up to that responsibility, even through all the mistakes I know I make. They have each made it through hardships and setbacks with grace not befitting their age. MC has shown that belief and persistence can overcome some inauspicious starts. Thinking back to when I first met him and where he is today, I am just happy I had a window seat to his transformation. CD has shown the value of hard work and determination toward a long term goal. BP and AD are truly remarkable young ladies with an inner strength and beauty that I only wish many more people could discover. RD was the first student that I sat at a bar and had a beer with (after he turned 21 obviously (-: ). He has also placed his trust in me to help work a few things out. There are many, many others…JH, DD, JR, JP, VC, JT, TR…each that I have a story about, each that I learned something from.
Now for a few from this most recent year. DG and JG are two intellectual powerhouses that will go on to do great things. Just in the last couple days, AC has shown that even 14 year old young men can be a great friend and confidant to a peer that is in need. I hope that GG loses some of his apprehensiveness and throws himself out there for the world to see, because others deserve to see the good soul he has. I hope that BP can find the solace and peace that he seeks, and that he realizes that he is not alone in this world. I hope many others…like JO, PG, CM, CP, JS, LH, BD…all find their way to the success I know they can achieve. ML has been candid about his fears and he is stronger for it. With his combination of sensitivity and logic, he will be a positive influence on many people.
To all my students: Saying “I’m proud of you” doesn’t do justice to what I am feeling, nor does saying “Thank you” seem adequate. As I posted on Twitter and Facebook earlier, I would not be the person I am today without having had the opportunity to be a small part of your lives. When you thank me for being your teacher, or continue to reach out to me after I have left the school or after you graduate, or simply post your accomplishments, I am humbled and honored beyond words. And every time that happens, I am the one that should be thanking you. I do not know how I have been fortunate enough to have crossed your path, but I consider myself to be truly blessed. All that I will be and will continue to do will be a product of knowing you.