Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Teaching and Dreaming

I haven't written in awhile. I've had quite a busy couple of weeks - a few interviews, first with a selection committee - then with a television station, a radio station, and some teacher newsletters. As it turns out, I have been honored with a title: North Carolina Teacher of the Year. And that honor has caused quite a whirlwind in my otherwise "normal" life (well, at least as normal as a middle school teacher's life can be.)

The first day after the announcement I received over 200 emails and phone calls. The entire student body at my school, along with every faculty member, every custodian, and every member of the cafeteria staff, lined the halls of my school and screamed like a rock star was in the building. Then the flowers came. I now have a fresh arrangement in every room of my house. After those were delivered, gifts started pouring in - I have certificates for manicures, pedicures, massages, books - it is all quite overwhelming. And here's why...

I have a little voice in my head (actually, it's not little; it's extremely LOUD.) It keeps repeating...a la the Mike Myers movie from the early nineties: "You're not worthy...You're not worthy." And since the announcement, I've been having nightmares: I'm teaching and my students won't listen. They won't sit down, and they won't do any work. They wander aimlessly around my classroom, seemingly oblivious to my attempts at instruction.

In one dream, it's early morning, and I'm getting ready to go to school. My assistant principal is in my bathroom reprimanding me because I'm running late. (I'm struggling to put my makeup on...) "You're going to be late for school," she says, "and I'm going to place a letter in your personnel file!"

Then in real life, I lost a student the day I returned to school. I was out for three days for the selection process, and the day I returned I brought sausage biscuits to my classes. I do this periodically when my students deserve a treat or whenever I’m hungry, which is often. Anyway, I was telling my student Jamal that I had spoken to the principal about the possibility of him being pulled from my class one day a week to go to PE. He loves PE so the deal is that he gives me his best effort the other four days and he can go to the gym on Friday. (I was explaining this information to him on a Thursday!) I also explained that I needed to clear this idea with his mother and with the PE teacher, but I didn’t see any problem. I continued passing out biscuits and then I started my lesson. I’m just teaching away, happy as a bird, as my mother-in-law says, and then it hit me.

“Where’s Jamal?” I asked the class. In unison, they replied, “He went to PE.”

“Wait,” I said. “You’re telling me that he just up and walked out of this classroom and I didn’t even see him?”

Darryl was chewing – “Guess so…” he mumbled.

So here I am, the newly named North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and I lost a student on my first day back. And for those of you who aren’t teachers, there were many other problems with this scenario. First, I hadn’t cleared this plan with Jamal’s mother. Now, suffice it to say, Jamal’s mother does not play. One day I emailed her about a teeny tiny behavior problem. I swear I had just pushed the “send” button on my computer when my classroom door flew open. There she was, Jamal’s mother, marching in my room. “I’ll just sit here in the back,” she said. The rest of that period was perfect. Another problem with Jamal just heading to the gym like that was that I had not cleared it with the gym teacher. So teachers, how would you feel if a student just bounced into your room one day and said, “I’m in your class now; Mrs. So and So said so." This type of thing does not make for good colleagial relations.

As soon as class was over, I ran, I didn’t walk, I RAN to the gym. I explained, 90 miles an hour, that I didn’t know Jamal had left and he wasn’t supposed to, etc. etc. The PE teacher said, “Well, I thought this was kind of out of character for you” Translation – don’t do that again. No, actually he was very nice, and we have a great relationship so he trusted that he didn’t have all the information. However, I haven’t spoken with Jamal’s mama yet…

At any rate, as honored as I am about this amazing opportunity I have been given, my little voice will most likely remind me often of my mistakes. And I'll answer back that, more than anything, I just want to make a difference in my profession in the next year.

And I want a good night's sleep.


lil' kk said...

I found your blog in the past few months and then it came across on twitter that you had been given a great honor, so CONGRATS! Also I have to say that if I were to also earn such a reward, I would probably have the same reaction as you! You are worthy. From the moment I first began to read your blog I knew you had the heart of a teacher. None of us do every thing absolutely perfect everyday, but do try to focus on what you do "right"

Bets said...

WOW! C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S ! ! ! ! What an amazing honor! I know it takes a lot of work to be in the running for teacher of the year, so you deserve it!

On a lighter note, I love that you've found the translation for "this is out of character for so and so". I say that to parents when I want to politely say that they will NOT get away with that again! :)

mnmsalyer said...

I saw it on the news, then called everyone in my family to make sure they all knew that you'd been rewarded with that honor. I smiled for hours on your behalf. I couldn't be more proud! I just wonder what in the world took NC so long to realize who and what you are!

By the way, for the last 13 years, I've never looked at any poster, plaque, bookmark, paper weight, etc that had the word DREAM on it without thinking of you.