I had always hoped to be my most authentic self as a teacher. It took a while to trust myself in this process, but it was always my greatest goal, to be myself, my vulnerable, real self. I have realized recently that I’m there. Blogging has been the thing that has pushed me there the most. I wonder what other educators have set for goals, and how they measure that.
One of the earliest mentors in my teaching career, years before I even taught, was a special education teacher at a middle school in Boulder. She asked me what I most looked forward to, in being a teacher. I didn’t hesitate: “helping students find their voice.” This teacher told me I was already a teacher and would do well. She told me most teachers told her decorating their rooms. That shocked me, but that’s another blog.
So, twenty-five years later, that’s still my goal, to help students find their voices. And I’m feeling like I’m helping more and more. I’m inspired by some recent replies to my latest blog.
I had responses from a former student, a current student, and a former classmate.
These connections are amazing. And humbling.
I’m moved that my former classmate replied to my blog, I’m enlightened by her wisdom and how she perceives my own. I’m moved by the words of my former student, who must be in her late 20’s, still holds me in a place of inspiration and who seeks wisdom from me (really, she is smart…).
But the words of my current student move me in such a different way.
It’s Friday afternoon, the day after I published my last blog, and I’m pretty tired from a long short week (why are short weeks so long?). It’s been a great day, not without blips, but that’s par for the course in middle school. So, I come in from outside duty, and I sit down to check my email. There is a comment on my blog from an “Abby”. I read it. It’s beautiful, amazing, and humbling. There is no last name, so I click into my blog, and I see who it is.
My student. I re-read her words, and I start crying. I’m moved beyond I can describe. This is what she wrote in response to my last blog.
You are a seriously developed human. An odd way of saying that, I know, but also the best, in my opinion. Fear is something we all deal with. As a student, I have a good amount of fear to get past. One tip I can offer is pretend you are a protagonist. Pretend you are fighting your way past your problems. Write yourself analogies of how its hard, of what is happening, making it sound like a very intense and hyped-up book. Because protagonists always win, in one way or another. Make yourself into a book, and read it. see yourself from another prospective. It also helps when you really don't want to continue your homework. Pretending you are in an epic montage is quite motivational, if I do say so myself.
Anyways, now that we covered that, lets talk about what a good job you did. Uploading is hard. Because once its there, people see it. But trust me, the people who see it are just going to grow to know you more. If you don't like it, that's okay. I don't exactly love myself at all times, but i keep going because its what we do. We love your uploads. All of them. And if everything is falling apart, that's fine. Pretend its fine until it is. It will be.
We all believe in you, and your writing, and we love your blogs(and your flattering remarks about your students). Keep it up!
Where do I begin? I need to begin with what impresses me the most, the thing I value the most. My student is reaching out to me as a fellow human. We are equals in this sharing. She read my words, and she wanted to engage in my thinking and feeling and share her advice.
Then, there is her advice. It’s brilliant, wise, creative. I should see myself as a protagonist fighting the conflicts of all great stories. Because “all protagonists win, in one way or another”. And, then, she says this idea helps her with homework. The juxtaposition of huge problems to daily real problems, from the wisdom of an eighth grader, well, it humbles me.
And then, her other advice about how I should risk people knowing me better. And that it doesn’t matter how people feel when they know me better. These words from my student, when I try desperately to help students feel that message.
So, I’m humbled, deeply.
And here is the biggest thing about Abby reaching out to me human-to-human. She is empowered. She is reading my work as an authentic piece of writing, and she’s being her real authentic audience self. And she’s empowered to engage. That’s what made me get welled up with tears when I read her words on Friday afternoon. There is no greater hope for me than that my students feel empowered to think, learn, reason, own their own thoughts and actions, create, reach out, make change happen.
And feel empowered to reach out to her teacher.
What a gift.
Thank you, Abby.
Gratitude: the technology that keeps me in touch, in a deep and meaningful way with others.
Goals: keep putting myself out there and risking others knowing me.