Do you ever think about how you got to where you are? Next school year will be my fifth in my school. Five. That's like a milestone. With the exodus taking place at the end of this school year, I'll be considered ancient - not as ancient as some, but an oldie.
When I started teaching I took little tidbits of wisdom from people here and there - 'close the door and teach, ignore the people outside', 'get 'em fed and get 'em home' -- but the actual nuts and bolts (the plans, the lessons, the putting it all together), I don't think anyone prepared me for how hard that would be. I'm, shall we say, a flyer by the seat of my pants person. I can wing it with the best of them. In many ways, that's a great quality for a teacher to have, and in many ways it can be a major flaw.
Last year some of my flaws became exposed. I couldn't keep up with everything. I needed help. I was overwhelmed and in my mind there had to be an easier way. Right?! To say I began receiving help is an understatement. I received not only help, but also coaching, mentoring, and friendship in the process.
The person who gave me this is absolutely amazing. She's genius. No, really. I'm sure we all have coworkers or friends who we think are smart or who we can turn to for help, and while I know I can do that, there's just so much more. The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure she knows it, but never in an 'in your face' kind of way. Her classroom management skills rock. Her literacy knowledge is impeccable - need a book or an idea and she has it. Want to try something new? She'll talk it through with you and help you figure out how to get started.
She doesn't work with 2nd grade anymore (and she didn't really last year, I just got lucky). The loss is mine. I'm pretty sure I've been cheated. I tried to soak up as much of her knowledge as I could last year. But, the wealth is too great. It kills me now because there's still so much to learn from her. There's so much she could have taught me. Believe me, there's definitely so much I still want to know. The year has been crazy though. I hardly see her, let alone have time to ask or have her fully answer a question.
In spite of that, I've somehow managed to receive numerous compliments from others this school year - on items I've created that she and I began doing together last year (items I learned about from her); on how I've become a leader on my grade level (something I only used to hear from her); so many things I do correctly because I learned from her. Don't get me wrong, this year is not easier. I've worked hard to get to where I am. More often than not, especially on a Friday, I catch myself in a moment and think "this was so much easier last year with her." It's not because she did it for me - we did it together. We collaborated. We complimented one another. At times I get sad because I know those truly were the 'good 'ole days.' It may never come again. I miss it tremendously. I know I'm fortunate though. When I find myself in a bind, or in the midst of a rough day I think, 'what would she say or do?' She'd keep it real - to an extent. I'm not at her level of awesomeness, so I try.
Does she know who she's created? A teacher who wants to be better every. single. day. Because of her, I have learned the type of teacher I want to be - and trust me, I still have a long way to go. How do you thank someone like that? - someone who pushes you, and challenges you, and encourages you, and makes you better. Because of her, I am the teacher I am today. I could not be more grateful.