I will never forget the day my eighth grade English Teacher came over to my desk, bent down and whispered "I think you would make a fantastic teacher some day. Maybe it's something you could consider!"
I laughed at her.
Teaching was far from my mind at the time. I had my heart set on being a writer and although I knew I might struggle financially, I was going to make it happen.
Fast forward to the summer before my Senior year. I had signed up for cadet teaching because it seemed like easy credits and I did enjoy being around kids. I get a phone call out of the blue from my guidance counselor. She called to ask me if I would mind moving my cadet teaching to first trimester because this teacher ( who meant a great deal to me and helped me through things as a 6th grader) needed students he could trust to help him because he was just diagnosed with cancer and would have to leave for treatments throughout the year. Without hesitation I agreed. In that trimester I definitely caught the teaching bug. I became so connected to that group of kids and didn't want our time to end.
This was truly the start of my teaching journey.
It is safe to say that in my eight years of teaching, I have encountered my fair share of struggle, cried a number of tears and wondered why I chose this path. If I were to say otherwise I would be flat out lying.
Yet I will also say this: I wouldn't change these experiences for anything.
* I watched a student who as a 7th grader thought teachers were out to get her, grow into a very respectful young lady. She made tremendous leaps and bounds academically and even became cheer captain, which was one of her goals.
* I have seen many students break from their shells and amaze me with their singing, rapping, or speech delivery.
* I have had many students who came in claiming they hate reading, scream out loud when the reading time for the day is over. In one case, a student rushed up to me after a lesson saying"What did you do to me Mrs. Ledford?" In panic I exclaimed "What do you mean? Are you ok?"
The young lady smiled and said " I can't wait to know what is going to happen next in Crispin and I think about it when I am at home. Yesterday, I almost went to the library to get it but I thought you would get mad."
I laughed and said "You my dear have caught the reading bug! It's a good thing!"
* I have had many alums come to visit, giving me a hug to thank me for all I did for them. In my head all I can think is "I am so sorry. I am a much better teacher now than I was then."
I got the privilege earlier this month to welcome back a student who just finished his basic training for the Marines. To watch this student, who definitely had issues with deadlines and motivation, talk about how he had to get each task done correctly on the first try because he had a goal and a plane to catch, brought a tear to my eye!
* I have cried over students and with students. I have broken this thick shell that I thought I needed because one principal told me at a teacher fair that he wasn't sure I could "bring it" in the classroom. I have learned that I don't need to bring anything except myself: an educator with a passion for her students and a drive to be the best teacher and ultimately the best person for them.
* This November I had to say goodbye to a student far too soon. Through my grieving process I realized how much this young man shaped my teaching. He was one of my factors for my shift to flexible seating. During his memorial, I stood up and explained how much this student has shaped me and that I hope he is proud of what my class has become because of him. I then went up to his family. I hugged his brother, who was also a student of mine and then went up to his mother. With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said "Thank you for loving my babies"
This, of course, brought me to tears yet since then has stood as the prime example of WHY I do this everyday. You never know where they will end up once they leave your class that year. You can only do everything you can in the time you have to impact them and love them.
Teaching is made of moments...
Is it pretty all the time? NO
Is there room for improvement? OF COURSE
The key is to hold on to our WHY....