I changed schools and states. I gave up my classroom for a cart. I traded James K. Polk and his presidential colleagues for pronouns and Poe. I left the comfort of inner-city chaos for an eerie rural quiet that didn’t stay silent for long. I left what was familiar and moved into a close-knit community where I knew absolutely no one. I watched a high school football game completely by myself. I smiled, shook hands, made small-talk, and carved out a place in the bleachers where I could sit contentedly and still see all of the plays.
I shined, I stumbled, I made mistakes, but oh, did I learn...
I learned the name of the convenience store some students like to venture to during class time when they think you aren’t looking. I learned that students who are sitting in class without their name on the roster are probably skipping someone else’s class.
I learned that not all people want to help a newbie and those who do should be praised excessively in even the smallest of ways. I learned that a teacher’s responsibility extends far beyond the four walls of a classroom. I learned that not all of the other teachers want to be your best friend — or even your friend at all. I learned that being kind to everyone, despite everything, goes a long way.
I learned. I learned and I learned and I learned.
I learned that a community and a school can accomplish amazing things when they work together. I learned that inspiring leadership is of paramount importance to any excellent school, and working for inspiring leadership is more rewarding than I could have imagined. I learned that leadership does not only include administration, but teachers can truly shine when they are allowed to lead. I learned that when you ask for things, sometimes you actually get them, and I learned that people do see you even when you think they aren’t looking.
I learned that there are still so, so many sweet students out there who I have not yet met. I can’t wait to meet them. I can’t wait to teach them and learn from them. I can’t wait to know them.
I learned that there is still so much to be excited about in this bright and muddled mess we call education.
And most of all, I learned that there is still so much to learn!
Next year, I’ll have a team all my own and I won’t be watching from the bleachers. I’ll trade my cart for a brand new classroom. I’ll be as kind and helpful as I can possibly be to every newbie who comes through the door. I’ll be a nine-year veteran, but it will still feel like my sophomore year.
Best of all, I'll still be learning.