Show me a teacher who doesn’t love summer, and I’ll show you my pet unicorn. There’s just no better time to be an educator than in the sunny season. My mom used to have a sweatshirt with a calendar on it that said, “Three Reasons to Teach: June, July and August,” but she only wore it around the house.
Don’t get me wrong — Mom loved her job, so much so she taught driver’s ed during much of her time off, but who among us cannot relate? Who doesn’t love a vacation?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching. By this, I mean I’ve spent 12 hours of each of the past seven days writing nonstop about my calling, my life’s work, my bread and butter, as they say. Surprisingly enough, I haven’t run out of words yet. I’ve been meaning to write this book for a long time, and when I hit 40 this year I realized there’s no time like the present to begin.
In my book, I talk about what I believe to be at my center and the center of good teaching: love. At the risk of sounding like the fifth member of The Beatles, I can tell you truer words were never sung than “All You Need is Love.” In life, in teaching, in just about everything under the sun, love is all you need.
I know that some may find this too simplistic, or perhaps too unrealistic. Either way, it’s taken me awhile to share my belief for the same reason my mother feared wearing her sweatshirt in public. I thought people would think I was bragging about what an amazing teacher I am. Or worse, they’d criticize me because I love my students.
Honestly, I’m not sure I care anymore. No, that’s exactly true. I’ve realized that I care more. I care more about being a good teacher who cares and challenges her students than I do about what other people think about my methods. How can anything that’s rooted in love be wrong?
On the night I turned 40 I was busy working, trying to beat a deadline, when in my inbox I received an email letting me know I’d been nominated for Hancock County Teacher of the Year. The nominee was a student I’d had over 10 years ago, a bright, lovely girl with a wicked laugh and sparkling sense of humor.
I was beyond touched that one, she remembered me well, and two, she took the time out of her up-and-coming life to recognize mine.
In that moment I understood two things it’s taken me a lifetime to learn. I’ve spent half of my life loving and uplifting young people. I give them hugs, rides, back-to-school supplies, clothing, food, even household items when they run out. Now, some of you may think, “Are you crazy, lady? Haven’t you got your own mouths to feed? Don’t you know you can’t save them all?”
Believe me, I know I’ve got kids to feed. My oven timer won’t stop dinging in my ear as I write this. I also know that every one of my students is somebody else’s kid, and if I can’t show compassion to someone else’s child because I’m afraid of ruffling a few others, well, that’s a sad, sorry way to live.
When I think about all the kids I’ve loved over the years, all the pictures splayed over my classroom walls, the knick-knacks, the cards, the torn-out pieces of notebook paper written hastily to say “thank you” on the last day of class, it strikes me now why articulating this feeling has always been so hard for me.
How can you explain the miracle of real, true love? How can you ever quantify what believing in your students and their belief in you means to the rest of the world?
It’s almost as amazing as June, July and August.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s June/July 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.