A New Beginning that Never Ends

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” –Albert Einstein

My last first day of school was in 1987. Just like in previous years, the night before was not a restful night for me.  Finally, I was a senior in high school. I stayed up all night because I was so excited. I wondered about my teachers, and I wondered if I would have classes with any of my friends. I gave little thought to my actual class work because I was a good student. I really did not have to put much effort into what I did at school. My grades were good, and I did not worry about getting into a good college.  Side note: I was accepted into every college that I applied to but decided to go the what was then known as West Georgia College. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who previously was a professor at the College called it the ‘Harvard of the South’. It was at West Georgia that my passion for service, leadership, and ultimately, servant leadership was born.

School starts in a couple of weeks for the students in my district. As an instructional technology coach, I work 210 days, so summer vacation is over for me. Going back to work does not bother me at all. I love what I do, and I look forward to learning new things and sharing my knowledge with the teachers. I’ve missed my colleagues, and I miss the day-to-day routine that comes with work.  I am just as excited about going back to work as I was about going back to school. There’s still a nerdy little kid inside of me.

Getting ready to go back to work made me think about school. I think about what the students need to do and what they will actually do. I think about their hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities.  I think about the teachers, and I think about the administrators.  From time to time, I wonder how things would be if I had my own school. Would I be a good administrator?  Would the students achieve academic success?  Would they have good character?  Would I be able to take off my principal hat and get involved in student activities? What about the teachers?  Would I be firm yet fair in their eyes?  Would I be the kind of instructional leader they could respect?  Would I be an effective school leader?  What would my school look like?

I wonder what things would be like if I had gotten a job as an assistant principal. I interviewed several times, yet I was not selected.  Each time I got the phone call, I felt more dejected than before. I felt I was qualified.  Why couldn’t the interview committee see that?  Looking back in retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t supposed to be an assistant principal.  At least not at that time in my career. I am where I am supposed to be.  I am full of anticipation for a new school year. I am fresh off the high that only an ISTE attendee can have.  I have so many ideas about what to do with the teachers and things I want to do for my own professional and personal growth.

As I mentionedIMG_2784ned in the beginning of my post, I graduated from high school in 1987. My class was the first class to graduate from the ‘new’ Griffin High School. Our motto, “A New Beginning That Never Ends”.  That’s how I feel.  I’m not new anymore, but my new job is a new beginning that never ends.  I am an instructional technology coach and with it comes so many possibilities.

Anticipation and Reality

“We are ever on the threshold of new journeys and new discoveries. Can you imagine the excitement of the Wright brothers on the morning of that first flight?  The anticipation of Jonas Salk as he analyzed the data that demonstrated a way to prevent polio?” –Joseph B. Wirthlin

I remember learning about anticipation in two ways. The first was watching tv. Heinz had amazing commercials.  I could sympathize with the characters in the commercials. Waiting for the ketchup to slowly drip out of the bottle and onto my burger or hotdog was excruciating when I was hungry. It seemed to take forever for the ketchup to end up on my food so I could eat. I also learned about anticipation every year on the night before the first day of school. I could never sleep because I was so anxious to get my year started. I was a good student and never really had trouble in school until 9th grade algebra, so I’m not sure why I was so anxious. I guess I just wanted to get started and hated the wait.  I still hate waiting. Not much has changed since I started school in the ’70’s. I want my ketchup on my food in a hurry, and I want school to get started yesterday.

I have been to the ISTE conference (International Society for Technology in Education) twice. Last year I had no idea what to expect, and I spent most of my time being overwhelmed. I was a brand new instructional technology coach, and I was at the biggest ed tech conference in the world. Although I was overwhelmed, I felt lost when it was over. I did not make many personal connections while I was there just because I was too afraid to speak to others. I have been shy since I was born, and that has not changed in the years since. I went to the Exhibit Hall and spoke to vendors. I remember a little about that experience, but since I was new and did not really know the overall technology plan for our district, I did not know where to focus my attention. I also went to sessions, but there was not an organized plan. I just went to the ones that caught my attention. After I got home, I could not figure out what I had accomplished. I did know that I wanted to go again, but this time I wanted to be more involved. I did not want to feel like I was a spectator. I wanted to be an active participant and contributor.

Because I wanted to be more involved, I submitted two presentation proposals. The first was a BYOD with my colleague Robin Harris and the second was an Ignite session. Both proposals were accepted. I was over the top excited. Actually, I cried the night I got word that the BYOD proposal was accepted. I could not believe that I would be presenting at a national conference. I could not believe that I, Leslie Fagin, was going to be an active contributor at the very same conference that had overwhelmed me the year before.

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Seeing my name above the door was very surreal. I felt like I had arrived.

Preparing for ISTE became an integral part of all I did at my job.  I wanted to make sure that I was more of a connected educator. I reached out on Google+, Twitter, and Voxer. I wanted to interact with others before I arrived in Philadelphia. Every day was one day closer to ISTE.  I read, made plans, worked on presentations, and dreamed about my debut of sorts at ISTE. In my mind, I was going to do a fabulous job of presenting and become an instant ed tech sensation.

I am at home now. I am not an ed tech sensation, yet I am not the same person I was before I left. One presentation went well and one went not-so-well. I connected face-to-face with friends made via social media. I connected with people in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground. Sharing knowledge in the playground was enlightening and validating for me. I’d like to do more of that both here and at other conferences. There are some other things I would like to work on before I go to Denver. Just like last year, I am already anticipating next year. However, unlike last year, I will not have unrealistic expectations. I will be an active contributor at the conference.  I will maintain the connections I made in Philadelphia and via social media.

Hard at work in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground at ISTE.

Hard at work in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground at ISTE.

I know what I need to do, and I will do it. There is that same sense of anticipation I had while waiting for the ketchup, school to start, and ISTE 2015 to get here. Oddly enough, as I pen this blog posting, there is a Rocky marathon on TV. I’ve seen all six movies, yet I watch anyway.  I watch partly because I just came from Philadelphia, and I like feeling connected to the City, and also because I totally get how Rocky felt each time he stepped into the ring. He anticipated greatness.  Even when Clubber Lang knocked him out, and he lost the fight, he got back up to fight another fight.  I wasn’t knocked out, but I did feel I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do. Next year will be different.

Teaching Teachers

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” –Mark Van Doren

During Christmas vacation, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with two former students.  I was touched when I received a text message that Thursday evening asking me if I had time to meet for breakfast the next morning.  In the six months or so since I haven’t been teaching, I have felt forgotten about as a teacher.  That makes no sense since I chose to not be a teacher anymore.  I suppose I feel like I am not a teacher, and I don’t make a difference anymore. Crazy, I know. Anyway, I met Cody and Paige for breakfast.  We ate, talked, laughed, and talked some more.  They are both freshmen in college.  We talked about their classes, their friends, their hopes, and their dreams. It was nice to sit down and enjoy them as grownups even though they are still kids to me. While at the restaurant, I had the opportunity to see another former student.  He goes to college at Oral Roberts University and was home for Christmas.  We didn’t chat much because he was working.  I asked him to stop by my office before he left town to return for his last year of college.

252204_10150633625000570_4042087_nMonday afternoon came, Zay came by.  He is the student body president at Oral Roberts University. He was the sophomore, junior, and student body president at our school.  He was captain of our debate team, and a leader in several other student organizations.  The fact that he has been a success in college is not really a surprise. He is about one of the most determined students I have ever met. If he says he is going to do something, he does it.  Our visit was a good one.  Since he graduated, we really had not had time to talk. Because he is so far from home, he is only home two times a  year. He comes home for Christmas, and he comes home for summer.  While he is home, he is working to earn money for school. He is a busy young man. We had a really good talk. Just like I enjoyed speaking with Cody and Paige, I enjoyed speaking with Zay. That night, I realized that my time impacting students is really over. The ones I had are finishing high school this year and will be in college next year. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was okay with knowing moments like those were over for me.

I am getting okay with it because I still have students. Some of my students are older than I am, but they are my students nevertheless.  I am teaching teachers how to use technology. The relationship is different from the one I had with my students, but there is still a student/teacher relationship. I am giving them knowledge that they can use to impact their students, increase their professional learning, and connect with educators across the globe.  To me, those are all good things.  I also know that I can have moments like that with the teachers.  Since I have started this job, I have done several training sessions on Google, Mimio, Digital Citizenship, and Safari Montage.  Robin and I also send out a newsletter every Tuesday, Tuesday Tech Tips.  Without fail, I will get an email from a teacher saying that they found a useful tip in the newsletter, and they can’t wait to try it out. I remember the day I was in Wal-Mart, and I ran into one of the math coaches for one of our high schools.  She was so excited about Hour of Code.  I was just as excited because I had never been enthusiastic about anything remotely related to math so to find a modicum of success at coding was a big deal to me.  The math coach felt the same.  She liked that we had events in most of the schools in the district and had shared resources with teachers.  She was doing it on her own.  We had a good conversation right there in frozen foods section of Wal-Mart.  The feeling was back.  I had a connection with someone. Something I had shared sparked an interest.  I felt like a teacher again. Nevermind that the woman and I had been colleagues for seven years.  I shared something with her that she was  unfamiliar with, and it sparked a desire for further study.

Because I am the kind of person I am, I have thought a lot about not teaching students anymore. Yes, my students are finishing high school this year.  They will go on to college, technical school, the military, or the workforce.  Unless they fall off the face of the Earth, I will no doubt have some contact with them.  There is Facebook, Twitter, and even Wal-Mart.  In a town like Griffin, you see everyone in Wal-Mart. Usually when you look less than your best, but that’s okay because it’s Wal-Mart.  I will see a former student or their parent or get connected with them via social media.  We will talk, and I will realize that the connection is still there.  It will be different, but it will still be there.  The same will be said of the teachers I work with.  Our relationship will change over time, but we will still learn from each other, and I will know that I continue to make a difference.  I also know that the learning will never stop. The cycle will continue.

#OneWord

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou

241370_10150597038840570_1955179_oMy mother would have been 68 today.  I say would have because she lost her battle with metastatic vaginal melanoma thirteen years ago.  Before her diagnosis, she worked in our local school system as a kindergarten para-professional.  She did other things as well.  She founded a mentoring program at her elementary school, the Men and Women of Orrs.  It started out as a way to get positive male role models for some of the boys at the school and grew into a program that served both boys and girls and as a result, the students were able to spend quality one on one time with adults. My mother was able to get sponsors for the program, organize field trips, and was featured in an ad in People magazine. She was a Girl Scout leader, a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader, a room mother, PTA officer, band parent, and an Army wife. I really can’t put into words all of what she did because she did so much.  She did everything that needed to be done, and she did it with passion.  She baked, sewed, worked outside of the home, and managed to move our family each time the Army said move. Unfortunately, the cancer diagnosis robbed her and us.  Once she was told her cancer was terminal (she was given six months to live), she gave up.  I’m not judging because I don’t know what I would do in that situation.  I suppose she really didn’t give up.  She was given six months to live.  She held the cancer off for eighteen months.

I speak of my mother today because it’s her birthday, and because I want to honor her memory.  I think she knew I wanted to be a teacher; however, she passed away three years before I started teaching.  I think she would be happy with the teacher I became. As I make more of a concerted effort to blog, I have been trying to get focused on my not-so-new anymore job.  I came across an idea last week that really struck a chord with me.  I have been making resolutions for a long time, and I have been not keeping resolutions for even longer. While looking at Twitter, I noticed the hashtag #OneWord.  I did some reading and realized that I didn’t need to make resolutions for this year.  Why set myself up for failure?  There are a lots of things I need to do.  I know it so why make a list.  I needed to find my #OneWord for the year, and let that word drive everything I do.  Because I have been thinking of my mom and all that she did, it came to me that my #OneWord is #passion. She did everything with passion, and it served her well.  I can do the same.

For 2015, I will let passion be my guide.  

As an instructional technology coach, I will approach my job with passion.  The teachers in my district deserve my very best. If I give them my best, they will be better equipped to share our district technology initiatives with our students.  We are here for the students.

As a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, I will approach my life with passion.  I owe it to myself, my family, and friends. Life is short. There is a great big world outside of my home. Living a life with passion means I will love, laugh, and most important, LIVE. I will go, do, see, explore, and learn.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  You lived your life with passion.  For you, I will do the same.

Looking Back, Around, and Ahead

“We keep moving forward , opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney

It’s almost the end of another year.  I have had 16,697 days during the course of my lifetime to get things right. I haven’t. Am I going to spend the last couple of days of this year wishing I could do things differently?  Nope. Been there.  Done that. Instead, I am going to focus on the good things of this year and the even better things that will happen next year.  I am not trying to gloss over the not-so-good things that have happened.  Why? Because those things have happened, I’ve learned from them, and I am ready to move forward.  If I spend time worrying about what I did, I will miss out on new opportunities. I’ve already been here for a lot of days. I  want to make good use of the ones I have left.

At the beginning of 2014, I thought about all the things I wanted to accomplish. Some were personal; some were professional. I have spent a large part of my life thinking that I can always do better. I am always wanting to improve who I am and what I do. Not much has changed in that sense. I want to do better. I want to be better. I AM better than I was this time last year. I WILL be better than I am this time next year.  Self-improvement is a continuous process. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. This time last year, I was a high school English teacher as well as the varsity swim coach and the student council adviser. I went to work each day hoping to teach some English lessons and a lot of life lessons. I wanted to do the same with the extracurricular activities for which I was responsible. As a teacher and coach, it was my duty. A duty I took seriously.  Now that I am no longer those things, I cherish the times I had with my students. I would like to think I taught more than English. They also taught me a good bit.

Two of my swim team members who are now studying at the University of Georgia.

Being a teacher and a coach defined most of my life. Most of my waking hours were spent at the school teaching, meeting, advising, and just being. My away from school hours were spent preparing for the hours at the school.  There wasn’t much to my life outside of the school. At the time, I was okay with things being that way. Now, I wish things had been different. I don’t mean I wish I wasn’t a teacher. I just wish that I had balanced more of Leslie with Ms. Fagin or the Faginator as some of my students called me. As the year progressed, I became more involved with the Alumni Association at my college alma mater, the University of West Georgia. I graduated from UWG for the first time in 1992 and the second in 2003. In the early years, I had other commitments, so I was not involved with the Alumni Association. On a whim, I decided to apply for a seat on the board. I was accepted and have enjoyed every moment since.

spring alumni weekend 2014This is probably the first thing that I have done that is just for me.  I am not a teacher, a Scout leader, a 4-H volunteer, club adviser, or team coach.  I am Leslie Fagin, graduate, giving back to my university.  As a board member, I have the awesome opportunity to serve ice cream to incoming students and their parents during Summer Orientation.  Serving ice cream allows me to think back to my times at what was then West Georgia College with an enrollment of a little more than 6,000 to what is now the University of West Georgia with an enrollment of more than 12,000. I remember my days, the friendships made, the lessons learned, the opportunities taken and the opportunities missed. Serving ice cream connects me with the new students and allows me to remain a part of the history of the University for just a little longer. I also have the honor of helping to plan Spring Alumni Weekend events and Fall Homecoming Week events. Although I am really a baseball fan, I have enjoyed fall at West Georgia.  The Alumni Association hosts a tailgate before each home football game. I don’t make all of them, but the ones I have attended have been refreshing. I have had conversations with members of the Blue Coats. The Blue Coats are the ambassadors for the University. They are well-rounded students who went through a stringent vetting process in order to represent the University at various functions. I love talking to them.  They are in awe of how much things have changed since my time on campus.  I also get to speak with alumni who graduated from our school long before I was ever born. I like hearing their stories. Our stories may be different, but we have a common bond. We love the University, regardless of the name on our degrees.

ELA academy pictureAs 2014 progressed, so did I. The opportunity to apply to present at a conference was given to me. Most won’t believe this, but I do not like public speaking. I get incredibly nervous, don’t sleep the night beforehand, and cannot eat at all for fear of not keeping food down. However, I do it because the profession I was called to do requires it. Okay, maybe required isn’t the right word. Speaking in front of my students was not hard. Speaking in front of adults is. When the Georgia Department of Education put out a call for proposals for the Summer Academies for English Language Arts, I worked with two colleagues and put in a proposal. After presenting our proposal in front of members of the Griffin RESA, we were accepted. My team agreed that we would present at two conferences.  The first one was at Kennesaw State University and the second was at the Coastal Georgia Center of Georgia Southern University. Of course, I was incredibly nervous, but we did well. Until I presented at the conferences, I did not realize that I would like presenting.  While presenting, I felt a sense of validation that I had not felt as a classroom teacher. I loved teaching, but rarely did I get immediate feedback nor validation. As a presenter, I got both, and I liked it. A lot.

About the time of the conferences was when I realized that I needed to make a move professionally. I did, and that’s how I became an Instructional Technology Coach for my local school system. My world is different now. It’s a good different. I am getting the validation that I was not getting as a classroom teacher.  My need for validation is probably because I am 45 years old and spent a large part of my life taking care of others. I am now taking care of me. I am getting to go to schools and train teachers on using technology. I do social media. I do conference presentations. I judge FIRST Lego League competitions. I work with students during the Hour of Code events in our district. I create, collaborate, communicate, and critically think.  In doing those things, I am taking care of me. It’s different, but it’s good. I can see me doing this for a while.

What’s ahead? Who knows. There are so many things on the horizon. I am going to dig deeper into the world of Google. IGoogle Educator certificate completed the Google Educator course a couple of weeks ago.  I want to apply for the Google Teacher Academy. I also want to attend a Google Summit this coming up year. I am presenting at the Georgia Council of Teachers of English Conference in February.  My topic is digital storytelling. I have recently discovered that I like photography. I want to use that love as a basis for future conference presentations. Technology and photography go hand in hand in my world. I am going to share that love with Georgia teachers. Our students have stories to tell. We just need to give them a voice.

0701141207My big deal next year is ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education conference. I attended for the very first time this past summer. It was a technology nerd’s dream come true kind of place. In 2015, it will be in Philadelphia. I’ll be there AND presenting there with my friend and co-worker Robin.  Getting notification that our proposal was accepted was absolutely incredible.  There was such a high that night. I was all over Twitter and Facebook sharing the news.  Right before bed, it hit me. I was going to be presenting at the biggest technology conference in the world.  Me. Leslie Renee Fagin. The little shy girl who doesn’t like public speaking will be speaking at an international conference.  I couldn’t help it. The tears just flowed. I am excited, nervous, and also thankful.  I am curious to see where my path will go in 2015. I do know I will learn more, share more, and get out more.

Which Way Do I Go?

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad.  My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: love, belonging, trust, joy and creativity to name a few.” –Brene Brown

When I was a little girl, I thought I was going to grow up and become a Supreme Court Justice.  My plan also included a husband and six children.  The life I am living is vastly different than the one I had planned.  I realized somewhere along the way that you can’t really plan your life.  It just happens.  Somewhere along the way, my plans changed and I ended up where I am today.  Today I am an instructional technology coach.  I used to be a 4-H Program Assistant, a Girl Scout Field Executive, a Girl Scout Community Development Manager, a Girl Scout Leadership Development and Product Sales Manager, a Girl Scout Program Manager, a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Director of Education, and a teacher.  Throw in jobs during my undergraduate career and the time right after graduation.  I’ve done a lot and had a lot of experiences.  I am glad that all of what happened has happened because that’s how I got to be where I am now.

Today’s blog challenge asked me to envision how my teaching will change over the next five  years.  I don’t think I can.  Actually, I don’t want to.  I think if I plan how my teaching will be, I will miss something along the way.  I am where I am now because I let myself, or maybe God led me, experience things that weren’t planned.  When I began my career with the Girl Scouts, I expected to spend thirty years working for the organization.  I planned to move up through the ranks and become the Executive Director of a local council or even of the entire organization.  While I was making those plans, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She fought for 18 months but eventually died.  Not long after her diagnosis, I left my job in California to return home.  I knew my place was at home with my mother.  That experience wasn’t planned, but it was necessary for my growth as a person and as a Christian.

After my mother’s death, I began graduate school and earned a degree in Rural and Small Town Planning.  While in school, I made plans to work as a planner.  Of course, my plans changed.  Shortly before I graduated, I realized I really wanted to become a teacher.  I applied for a job as a teacher, and that’s what I have done for the last 11 years.  True to form, I began my teaching career planning to spend 30 years in the classroom.  I taught and again went back to graduate school.  A little voice in my head told me to obtain my leadership certification.  I did because I thought I would become a school administrator.  That didn’t happen or at least it hasn’t happened yet.  At the end of the last school year, I applied for the job I currently have.  It wasn’t planned.  It just happened.

When I make plans, things change.  I can’t say for sure how I see myself in five years. If I am still doing what I do now, I would like to think that I would be more comfortable speaking in public.  Although I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice, I have never liked public speaking.  I’m not sure how I would have done as a lawyer in a court room.  I also would like to think that I would be well-versed in all aspects of my job.  I don’t like not knowing something.  Technology changes all the time, and I want to be the person who knows everything.  I know that’s not realistic, but that’s how I am.  I just like to absorb knowledge. I don’t think my teaching will change over the next five years.  I will change, but my teaching will not.  I won’t predict what will happen. I will just enjoy whatever experiences I have along the way.

A Brand New Day

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God.  And I consider it a new beginning.  Yeah, everything is beautiful.” –Prince

I’m not a morning person.  I am a middle of the day kind of person; however, as far as the school day is concerned, my favorite part of the day is the beginning.  I know that goes against who I am as a person, but the beginning of the day is a brand new day.  Whatever not-so-nice stuff I said the day before is done and over with. I can move on, and the students can move on. From time to time I say not-so-nice things.  Not often, but sometimes.  A new day means that the students can start fresh.  When they come in the room, I am at the door to greet them and get them started on a new learning adventure or a continuation of the adventure from the day before.  A new day means that if they did not understand the day before, there is another opportunity to master the content.  A new beginning means they have another chance at almost anything and everything.

As an instructional technology coach, I still feel the same way.  I like the beginning of the day.  When everything works for me in the morning, I am able to get up and out of the house soon enough so that I can get to the office and have a few moments of quiet time.  I like to have time to think about what needs to be done for the day and make a plan.  I like anticipating what is to come.  My days are very different although I do the same thing at each school.  The teachers are different, their readiness levels are different, and their expectations are different.  I like having time to mentally prepare for what’s ahead.  I like the quiet of the morning and having time to watch the day unfold.  It’s pretty awesome if you think about it.

I also like getting to work before the others so I can get a good parking space.

One Third of the Way There and Only Three Days Behind

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” –Henry David Thoreau

Today’s posting is different.  I don’t think I am supposed to be as reflective or maybe I’m wrong.  I’m supposed to list different things about myself.  I have a list to follow.  Let’s see how I do with simple directions.

Share five random facts about yourself

  1. I have beautiful feet.  No, really.  I do.  23504_10150175185995570_4788811_n23504_10150175186005570_4875383_n
  2. I did not learn to walk until I was 14 months old.  Even at a young age, I was more cerebral than physical.
  3. I hate dirty laundry if it’s not mine.
  4. I really hate peanut butter and jelly in the same jar.  I hate peanut butter, but I really hate it when it’s mixed with jelly.
  5. I have been hoping to get a twin brother or sister all my life.  I think it might happen before I die.  Anything is possible if you just believe.

Share four things from your Bucket List

  1. Go on a mission trip.
  2. Drive cross country.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Run in a 5K

Share three things that you hope for this year as a person or educator

  1. Grow in my walk with Christ
  2. Present at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia
  3. Go back to school and finish my doctorate

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator

  1. Shaelinda’s death two weeks before she graduated.
  2. Making the mistake of watching the episode of America’s Most Wanted when they talked about her murder.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you

  1. All I really want is to be happy and make a difference.  That’s all.

A Card and a Hug

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and the soul of a child.”

Teachers are accustomed to not getting all the recognition we think we deserve or for that matter need.  We work, work, work, and work and oftentimes do what others consider impossible or not worthwhile. We do it because that’s what we are called to do.  However, it is nice to know that we are appreciated.  I am just like my educator colleagues.  I want someone to acknowledge what I have done.  I don’t want a parade down Taylor Street or anything like that, but some recognition would be nice.  After a lot of deep reflection, I realized that being appreciated by my students means a lot more than being recognized by the adults in the building.  Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful to those who voted me Teacher of the Year in 2010, but in the long run, who is really going to remember that?  I have a couple of plaques and a ring, and I have the remembrance of being speechless after my named was called for the honor, but what will carry me through the rest of my career?  Will it be the plaque and rings or will it be something else?

0913140911a (1)Surprisingly enough, it is the something else that will carry me through the days when I need a little push so I can continue to do God’s work.  I spent eleven years in the classroom, and for eleven years I knew there were students who no matter how hard I tried, I could not make a connection.  I suppose that some just didn’t get my charm.  Perhaps they didn’t like my teaching methods, or just maybe, they didn’t like me.  I hate to admit that I am bothered by the fact that I care whether or not the kids liked me.  I did and still do although I’m not teaching anymore.  In the few months since I have not been a teacher, I have been thinking a lot about being a teacher.  Why?  I don’t know.  I think I have been thinking a lot about teaching because of the card I carry in my purse.  There are a lot of things in my purse, but the card is special.  It is special because it was given to me by one of those kids I thought I was not reaching.  I taught her for three years, and each year she would tell me she wanted to be in my class the next year.  I did not believe her words.  I thought she was just saying it because kids will tell a teacher anything if they think it will help their grade.  They don’t realize that their grade is just that, THEIR grade.  I don’t randomly give grades because kids say nice things to me.

It was the end of the school year, and a lot was going on.  I was trying to get my kids ready for the End of Course Test, finish grading research papers, and hold on to my sanity.  It had been a tough year, and I was ready for summer.  The day I received the card was a normal day.  I had been speaking to the principal while in the faculty dining room.  Whe0913140912n we came out, we ran into the student and her father.  They were looking for the principal; however, she had also been looking for me.  She handed me the card, thanked me, and hugged me.  I was floored.  She had not been my student in a year although she would speak whenever she saw me.  The principal took her and her father to his office so they could speak.  I stopped in the hall and read the card.  It brought tears to my eyes.  In the time it took me to read the card, I realized I was wrong.  She didn’t dislike me, and I HAD gotten through to her.  Her words meant more to me than the Teacher of the Year plaques and the ring.  Why?  Because a student told me, Leslie Fagin, that I mattered to her and she thanked me.  She didn’t have to give me the card.  I doubt her parents told her to do so.  She did it on her own.

I carry the card in my purse as a reminder.  When I reach in to get money or medicine or even a snack, I feel the envelope, and I remember.  I remember that I mattered to at least one.  As far as accomplishments go, mattering to the students is more important than anything else.  I doubt people realize that about me.  I always cared about my students regardless of what they thought or what others said.  They mattered to me, and I suppose, for some, I mattered.