I'm taking a class to gain my last needed credit to make the coveted "lane change." However, this isn't just any lane change, it's the last one I'll do as a teacher. That means I'm getting old. That means I've been teaching a long time. That means my career is coming to an end. But I'm still learning new things, surprising truths, actually.
The first thing I've realized is teaching has meant more to me than I ever thought it would. An eager seventeen-year-old punk who left home and never looked back, I couldn't wait for college. I would be around people from a variety of backgrounds who would challenge my thinking, befriend me, and welcome my insights. It was in college I truly learned to think. Yet, I never went to college for that reason. I went away to escape from a dark childhood.
I shared my formative years story with a friend the other day and she asked me if I'd ever written about my upbringing. I haven't and I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say I'm in the exact place I'm supposed to be, teaching the exact subset of kids I can relate to. I've been them. Lived that life. Survived my childhood. Beat off the negative comments that swirled around me. Proved I could succeed.
My conversation with my friend helped me realize that, truly and completely, for the first time. I'm teaching a group of students I love to teach because I understand their struggles, both emotionally and relationally with family. When I share my story with someone, inadvertently the question always arises--how did you endure that? My answer? I made a choice. Simple, really. I made a choice to be a victor not a victim. I share that same message with my students.
So why the disclosure? Because of my friend. She helped me to admit
something to myself that has been robbed of me by my past. It was
through her that I saw a purpose in where I was and why I was teaching.
Instead of listening, subconsciously, to the negative recording from my
youth, I realized I could break that record and believe in me. In what I
did in the classroom and for my students. I've known for a long time I
could relate to my kids like most others can't. But she made me see that
as a gift. As a victor's gift. And for that, I will be forever
See, I teach at-risk kids. Not bad kids. Not punks. Young adults who want to be viewed and treated with respect by those older than they. I LOVE my job and my students. I wouldn't want to teach anywhere or anyone else. And honestly? I think
I'm good at developing relationships with my students. They come to
trust me, knowing I'm on their side and their advocate. Beyond wanting them to learn how to think and analyze, I want my students to know they, too, can be victors. It's all in the choices they make.
My career may be careening to an end, but I've still got a few years to go. I'm going to enjoy being in the classroom like never before. Why? Because it's a gift. I'm going to enjoy my students beyond expectation. Why? Because they're a gift. And I'm going to believe in myself, my gut instincts, like never before. Why? Because of the gift.
I'm glad to learn the truth my friend helped me realize. It was something my head knew, but this time my heart acknowledged it as well. My friend showed me that we all have gifts. We just need to uncover them, dust them off, and use them.
So look around and see what you find. I've looked and found my gift. What's yours?