Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life Goes On

Parent conferences were last week and this week.

I am ALWAYS amazed to learn more about my students. Every student comes with a story. Some stories are sad and some are funny, but each one is unique.

I am reminded this week that every teacher comes with a story as well. We don't come to the classroom as flat characters or parts of an education machine. We bring our story to the classroom with us and whether we tell it directly or indirectly it informs the work we do. My story has been catching up with me all week.

I think when people have a near death experience they become forever more sensitive to life. Seeing what they almost lost causes them to live differently. I have always been a person who was almost someone else with a different life.

I was born into an extremely unfortunate situation. My mother told me that she had to collect change along the side of the road to pay for baby food when I was an infant. My family was sick with the sickness of addiction. Anxiety ruled my home in my early years. I remember being strong during this time. I always tried to help my mom.

Later, when my Dad left his family entirely, my life changed drastically. I was about eight. My Grandparents supported our family. We had nicer things than I had ever had. We lived in one house without moving all of the time. My Grandparents became a huge part of my life, and my future no longer seemed dark and uncertain.

I excelled in school--particularly in verbal tasks. Everyone in my family felt certain I would go to Law School. In some ways, I forgot about my old life and early troubles. Yet, there are and always have been reminders. Every time I hear a West Texan drawl, every time I smell cigarettes, every time I tasted pecans or saw army fatigues; I saw a ghost--the ghost of a life I once had and almost continued.

In the end, as I looked toward my own future at the age of eighteen, who I was and the ghost of who I might have been guided me to forget about ambition. I chose teaching because I wanted to help. I watched someone help me and my family. I knew at that point that there is nothing better to do in this life than to help others.

I don't really talk about my story. In a tangible sense, it doesn't make me a better teacher. I have struggled as much as anyone in learning this trade. If there was a Hippocratic oath for education, "Cause no harm," I would have broken it many times. I struggle with confidence and competence. What my story does mean is that I know how important this work is. I take it seriously.

This week with the passing of my Dad's mother the past has been with me a lot. Life goes on, but I am reminded that I didn't wind up here by accident and I am driven to keep trying harder.

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