Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Life-Changing Word

      I have a friend of twenty plus years whom I've only spent hours with in person. Yet those snatches of time have been etched on my life. She's a literary agent for Christian authors, but I knew her when she was a fledgling writer. Going on tour with one of her authors brought Wendy to this area so we all met up for lunch one day. This time it was her author who said something I'll never forget.
      The author queried me about my job. Wendy laughed and said, "Lauraine, it's not her job, it's her passion."
      I went on to say I was just an English teacher when Lauraine stopped me. Her blue marble eyes held mine as she said, "I'm going to tell you something that will stay with you and hopefully change you forever. Eliminate the word 'just' from your vocabulary. You aren't 'just' a teacher. You're a teacher, someone who changes people's lives in ways most never realize. You aren't 'just' a teacher. 'Just' means you don't value what you do, when clearly you do."
     She said more but that was the gist of it. Lauraine was right. I've not been able to stop thinking about her words. I wondered when I morphed from teacher to 'just' a teacher. When did I start to belittle my profession by using that qualifier?
     How often do we hear that word from students? 'It's just a writing assignment' or 'It's just a day late'? How often do we utter that limiter our selves?
     I've come to think of the word 'just' as a minimizer. It diminishes us, our work, our students. I finally figured out that not everyone can be a teacher. Talking to a teacher friend, I've heard words I've never really listened to before. "People think they could teach but really, could they? Most who say that don't even like teens much less be around them for six or seven hours a day."
     She's right. Not everyone can be a teacher or at least a good one. I could never be a scientist or a firefighter or a chef. I could do these, maybe, but not well.
     Yes, teaching can become tiring some days. But overall, my kids energize me and challenge me to become a better teacher. Not 'just' a teacher.
     So I'm working on taking that word out of my vocabulary. I'm not 'just' a teacher. I'm a professional who imparts knowledge to teens and instructs them not only in how to write, but in how to think and analyze the world and the words around them.
     I never want to be 'just' a teacher. When that mentality pervades my thinking, it'll be time to quit. But for now, 'just' is a word I'll be avoiding.
     Lauraine was right. Eliminating that word is changing me. Think about it for your own life. There's power in words. Even in the small ones.

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