I’ve recently realized that I’ve been talking about “me” way too much lately. Granted, it’s my blog, but I’ve been looking at everything more from what I have been able to do for my students, and I rarely have discussed what my students have done to help me. I think it goes without saying that I am a radically different person than I was when I graduated from the University of Illinois three years ago, and I expected to be, but I don’t think I expected my students to have this big of an impact on me.
And here’s the ironic part about it: Many, if not all, teachers go into the profession to make an impact, make a change, or do something good for kids. Rarely do we go into a profession because we want to be changed. While I still feel like I want to make impact, I now want to continue teaching because I have been changed immensely by my students, and I want to continue being affected by them and their families.
I am now a writer. Truly, I think that becoming a teacher saved my literate life. I never saw the value in being expressive through speaking and writing until I started working with kids and seeing how timid and shy they were with their words. This helped me to see the importance of risk-taking in writing and the beauty of pure honesty in writing. It also helped me to value imperfection and focus more on process. I am less critical of myself and others and more focused on the importance of becoming a writer and making your voice heard.
I am now a reader. I’ve always been a decent reader, but I never liked it, honestly. It seemed the monotony of reading in my educational experience, and perhaps my lack of exposure to many topics I could read about, led to a distaste in the art. By becoming a teacher and watching my students get lost in their books, I’ve been able to see the value in becoming a well-read individual. I’ve also seen what it truly looks like to be inspired by a book, thanks to them.
I am less controlling. Controlling teacher really should be an oxymoron. I think I wrote about this in an earlier post, but I’ve recently found the value in letting go of some of my control and letting my kids own the classroom, their learning, and the route they take to get there. My students have shown me that, not only the more I try to control them, the more they fight back, but they’ve also shown me that the less I try to control them, the more they will pleasantly shock me with their brilliance. Such is the case with many scenarios in life–what will happen will happen, and there’s no use trying to control everything.
I am now a risk-taker. Risk-taking has become part of the mantra in our classroom, and I think my life has been devoid of risk-taking. I usually encountered tasks I knew would pan out positively; I would always try to find structure before I found purpose; I used to tread cautiously in an effort to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. Now, being a teacher, I see the value in trying new things and, at times, jumping in an messing things up before truly finding clarity. In fact, I think at times, because of my students, it is necessary to do things wrong in order to truly understand what it means to be “right.”
I am happy. Happiness always seemed like a dream to me. Whether I was concerned about people knowing I was gay, people liking me, or that I was not pursuing the right field, I always felt an unsettling sense of melancholy, never truly content with my current situation. After two and a half years of being a teacher, I feel content and still constantly inspired because of my students, both past and present.
It’s one thing to like your job, but it’s another to feel enriched by your job–for it to truly add value to your life, other than monetary. Truly, becoming a teacher has saved my life, as corny as it sounds. I’ve gone from a rather rootless person to a grounded and inspired one–one who, instead of wishing for the next big thing, has an appreciation for and wishes for a continuation of the good fortune that has been bestowed upon him. So, here’s to you, kids. Thanks for everything.