I see the depth of my humanity at the intersection of my darkest secrets and greatest hopes. At times I am secretly afraid and yet deeply hopeful. Teaching has unearthed a myriad of emotions. It has been a place where great joy and great need have collided. I believe I’ve needed the presence of students much more than they have needed any lesson I have taught them.
Living this dream has been nothing I expected and everything I’ve hoped for. I didn’t expect exhaustion or gaps in communicating with those I love. I didn’t expect to see the beauty in becoming a reflective practitioner. I didn’t expect to treasure sound feedback as much as I do. I hoped for joy filled days. I hoped that I would not be the only teacher in the room; that I might learn profound truths from the mouth of babes. I hoped that my discomfort would point me to Christ. I hoped that I would grow personally and professionally; both have occurred. A memorable student-led lesson that impacted my personal growth occurred on the first day in the classroom.
“Are you nice?” – 5th Grader somewhere in Memphis
On the first day of school I was full of nerves; all kinds of nerves and this student “had the nerve” to question my kindness? I should be nervous, right? It was my first day as a teacher. However, the candor with which this student spoke during my initial encounter with him was refreshing and taught me a lesson in token vs. true relationship. My first day attire was thoughtfully chosen. I “carefully” selected a colorful blazer and shirt which I thought wouldn’t cause me to appear too uptight that kids wouldn’t approach me or too casual that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Clearly the student could not easily decipher the type of teacher I was and therefore decided to ask. Truthfully, his sweet candor never left me.
As adults, quick, unfounded, judgments are made upon initial encounters, and rather than finding out more about that person (as this student attempted to do), token relationships are established. True friendships are established as we seek to know and be known by others. Tokenism selfishly prompts us to hold on to a relationship based on what it can provide us and only access it when it has some direct value to us. It says, “I’ll use this token when I need it.” It has little care for the token itself, only what it can provide. Tokens are cheap and so are token relationships. The first day of school encounter has guided my interactions with students and adults in a new way. This student has encouraged me to seek to know others and allow others to get to know me. This knowledge doesn’t imply depth, but rather an earnest attempt to connect with others in an authentic way. This posture of connection with others has caused me seek to humanize others. It is the start of every conversation and every prayer. Game changer. This student taught me a lesson in empathy. For 2019, ya’ll can keep the change. I’m not in search of tokens.
As a self-proclaimed late dreamer, my professional growth as a teacher has revealed itself through expressions of love. I thought my first day in the classroom would be love at “first day,” but it wasn’t. In short, it didn’t feel like love, but it felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And maybe this is love; not explicitly a feeling, but a knowing. A deep knowing that you are safe and that the reciprocation of the love that you’ve given will be returned without judgement. I have been loved well by a few in this season. These beautiful expressions of love have undoubtedly reminded this caterpillar that it was made to fly.
There is a love that liberates and a love that feels like it’s always been free. I choose freedom. – Queen Sugar
Teaching has been the realization of an unspoken dream. Dreaming doesn’t actually feel “dreamy” and comfortable, but I do feel ALIVE! Is it possible that in the dreaming I feel more human? Does this awakening of my humanity define what it means to really live? Living in the tension of hopes and heartache.
Dreaming is defined on www.dictionary.com as an aspiration; goal; aim.
To dream is to hope. To hope is to live.
I now dream of teaching students more than math. I dream of teaching them of their inner and outer beauty. I dream of teaching them how to navigate a world which doesn’t always affirm them. I dream of teaching them to fly. Fly, babies, fly. When loved well, I believe flying is the only option.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12