We all have a dream. It is that thing we all wish for, desire, and stop in wonder every so often to imagine us doing that one thing. We all have a dream. It might be a small dream that we quietly resolve to do before we leave this place. Or it might be a massive dream – one that requires the stars, The Pope, and God himself to align together in order that it might be achieved. We all have a dream. For the longest time my dream was to be a teacher. You know the stories people tell. I would teach my brother school when I was younger. I volunteered in church Sunday school classes because I felt a connection there. I took a job as a senior trainer overseas for a corporation because it felt like a thing I could do. I made it a year before I came back home. It took a realization at my last job to decide I needed to get my first degree and a career.
I always thought I would teach middle school. I found the world they lived in to be something I understood. I got their feelings, their experiences, their reasons, their weirdness – I understood and accepted it. I spent most of my field experiences in middle school – nearly 400 hours total between two full semesters. I did my student teaching in a middle school – cutting my metaphorical teeth with 8th graders. The dream always seemed to be middle school. My first year was incredible with my inaugural 6th grade class. This second year has been good and I’ve loved every moment of it.
In the middle of my first year, I was approached by our alternative high school principal who told me in no uncertain terms that if her English Language Arts teacher ever left, I was on her speed dial. In my heart and mind I figured it would be several years before I got that call. I would have plenty of time to work in a middle school world before I had to make the decision to step into an alternative high school.
I was wrong.
At our first personal development for the district as we started this new year, the principal approached me and told me the ELA teacher position would be open for next year as the teacher had filed his retirement paperwork. I was suddenly faced with that speed dialed phone call ringing unsettlingly loud.
I hadn’t even met my new students yet. In that moment, a very stark reality began to set in – I would quite possibly be teaching my second and last 6th grade class this year. It was unnerving, unsettling and unbelievable. My dream had been middle school. Everything in the world had told me middle school. Fate was now intervening in that dream, and I wasn’t sure what to think. All I knew was that I couldn’t ignore the principal’s determination to get me on her team and I would need to rationalize a response…and soon.
Home is a funny thing. The concept of home, at least. For some, it’s the same place they’ve been since they were born. For others, it’s been transitional with careers and family. And still others have moved more than they have fingers to count on their hands or toes on their feet. We all have a home in our mind that we identify with in some way. Starbucks runs its business with the idea that their stores are the “Third Place”, a third space that you call ‘home’. It’s been unusually successful in convincing millions of people across the country that this is indeed the truth when it’s more a manufactured reality carefully crafted by the company. Having worked as a barista during the four years of my college journey, I can confirm it.
So home is a concept; sometimes constructed, or manufactured. But the true homes, the True Norths of our lives – those remain clutched close to our hearts. As Elvis Presley would say, “Wild horses couldn’t tear us apart.” My home was always going to be teaching middle school. I had convinced myself that my career would be spent working in 6th to 8th grade for the rest of my life. We do a lot of work to make our home feel more like home. We decorate. We paint. We put lights up. We make it reflect us.
As I started this year, I was able to really craft my room in the way I wanted. Posters all around from fandoms, only using lamps, tables arranged in teams, and music playing as much as possible when I wasn’t instructing. First year it was a godsend as I slowly put lamps in and posters. The class shifted to more being more manageable. The culture shifted. Relationships grew. And it began to feel like a second home to me and my students. This second year was in the same theme. And I thought I was home. That I had found a place in which I did belong and that what I thought mattered, had an impact, and was useful to the community at large. That hasn’t always been the case in my previous jobs. I was more a round peg in a square hole everywhere else I worked.
So I had to start deciding where I was going. That I needed to make some hard decisions, have some emotional conversations with myself. After all, the home I had come to know as home was now scheduled for a metaphorical demolition at the end of May. Through it all I talked to so many people – both educators and friends. I shared my current situation with them and pointed out where I could be going if I said “yes”, and uniformly the response was, “you need to take this”. It was shocking at first, but as time went on and I continued to process the question, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, I belonged there. Maybe the two years I spent working with 6th graders was preparing me. Maybe the kids were my learning. Maybe there was a purpose, however twisted I thought it was, in all of this.
So I got the job. It is a big risk, but it is also a great opportunity for me as an educator to learn, experience, and engage with students in a different situation than most. It’s a chance to build relationships, mentor, encourage, and work with older students. I’m joining a great team while leaving a great team. It is bittersweet because of the love I have for the 6th grade group – there truly is no other age quite like it in the world of education. You could probably say that about every grade level, if we’re honest with each other. I’ve treasured my two groups so very much and I won’t soon forget the impact they had on me and what they’ve taught me as person and educator.
And so I will step into my next step in my journey as a teacher. It’s a very Bilbo Baggins moment, echoing the first blog I ever wrote here – “I’m going on an adventure!”. An adventure into the next great mayhaps. To that end, this entry also echoes themes found in another post I wrote entitled, “A Great Perhaps” where I wrote this –
Each semester has held it’s own challenge or unique experience which leads me to conclude (and agree with several Goodreads posters) that the idea of “A Great Perhaps” moves down the field like in soccer (football for everyone outside the USA), NFL football, or even basketball. It is constantly changing with each new goal being scored. You score that goal, make that touchdown or shoot that three pointer and it’s a thrilling moment you celebrate with the fellows on the field and the crowds in the stadium but everyone knows it’s not over. The other team could kick in the ball, make an interception or even steal the ball out your very hands. You need to keep moving your feet, keep passing and keep running that court. We all want to win that game but it’s not won on one small play. It’s won at the end when the whistle blows, the fourth quarter comes to an end or the buzzer bleats.“A Great Perhaps”, adelayedteacher
I think in the metaphor I was attempting to wax poetically there, my career in teaching is the four quarters of a game. There’s warm ups, time outs, and half time shows in there somewhere too. To that end, I’m just getting started in that the latter half of the first quarter of my career. There’s so much adventure, learning, and exploring to be had out there and in my classroom – I need to make the best of the time I have in education. My teammates may change, hell coaches may come and go – but I’m never going to step off the court. I’ve got the ball in hand, and the rest of my life to play on the field.
To really mix up my metaphors and imagery, I’ll borrow a phrase from Jack Sparrow to close this post out.
SPARROW: “Bring me that horizon…and really bad eggs. Drink up me ‘earties. Yo ho!”Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl
Cue the music!