Today was a tough day. I finished moving out of my current school where I had the perfect job. It fulfilled me in every way. I was treated as a professional and valued by the contributions I made to make our school a better place to learned. I had an awesome administration who allowed me to explore so many amazing opportunities both inside and outside of the school. They were always supportive and encouraging. Each day I felt like what I did mattered and was valued. With that said, I had the perfect job. There was absolutely no reason to leave. As I was packing, I began to wonder if I made the wrong decision. Did I not spend enough time considering all the pros and cons of switching jobs and returning back to the classroom? I spent some time second guessing myself. I went to my new school and was unable to get in. It made me think even more, did I make a hasty decision? I know that in my heart I am doing what I am called to do. But I was beginning to second guess myself. Upon gaining entry to the school though, it was confirmed that I made the right decision. I met several of my new coworkers who instantly knew me which was amazing and encouraging. As I went back out to move more items into the school though, I had an unexpected conversation with a parent. As I walked by her car, she said "Hi and Welcome to North Rowan." She asked some about what I would be teaching and we discovered that I would have her son this year. Our conversation evolved into her sharing about the amazing success that her daughter had at North. She graduated last June and is on her way to becoming a nurse. I congratulated her and shared that I knew that she must be a proud parent. As our talk continued, she shared some about her son who will be in my class. She stressed that he is still maturing and encouraged me not to let his past define how I see and work with him. It was at this point that I was reminded of the incredible power that teachers possess. We have the power to influence students and change their trajectories. I shared stories of previous students I had at Salisbury High. When many of these students entered from middle school, their reputations definitely proceeded them. However, I learned early in life that people change. I recounted several stories of students who ended up going from potentially "we will be lucky if this person graduates" to earning a full scholarship to a college. I have several students who I still see now in our town who have turned their lives around. Many of them have stable jobs and are raising a family. I shared with the mom that it is important that we work in tandem to encourage our students to make good choices and choose a trajectory that takes them where they want to be. But I also explained that students are still learning how to be better decision makers and have more positive interactions with others. One event should not define any teacher's relationship with a student. Additionally, we must realize that our students do and will make mistakes. We cannot penalize them for making a bad choice. I am not saying that there are not consequences for choices and behaviors but we must not pigeon hole students into a specific mode due to one choice. The greatest thing about humans is that we have the ability to change. If a student is working to change and become a productive adult who contributes positively to our society, we, as teachers, must allow them the latitude to make mistakes and help them to learn from their mistakes. I shared with the mother that I will work hard to ensure that I guide her son in the best way possible with the realization that he is still learning and maturing. She was so appreciative. As I reflect on this experience, I know that transition back to the classroom will be challenging. I will have some great and extraordinary days but I will also have days where I am challenged and discouraged. That is teaching. But what I was reminded of is that teachers have an extraordinary amount of power that we must use in a way that allows our students to grow in the best ways possible. It is a lot like parenting. My son will occasionally do things that are less than ideal. However, he is learning. I must afford this same courtesy to the students that I teach. I am reminded that sometimes we may not see our students fully matured until after graduation even. But we must take our students as they are and work to cultivate them in the best way possible so they have the best chance of future success. This conversation definitely helped to ease my doubts and second guesses. It cemented that I am definitely where I need to be. So I look forward to helping to #changetheequation for so many of these students by believing in them but also helping to guide them along their path. We, as educators, must be mindful that we use our power to help our students and allow them the opportunity to grow and change.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.