I had one thing on my list for my tenth birthday: an overhead projector.
I know many little girls play school, but I'm just going to say it - my school setup was legit.
When both of your parents are teachers, they score all sorts of goods like unused lesson plan and grade books, real math textbooks, spelling workbooks, and those cool chalk holders that held five pieces and made straight lines across the board. (Yes? Anyone remember?) In addition, my weekly allowance was usually spent on shopping sprees to the teachers' store, and nothing thrilled me like new school supplies. I had dry erase boards (I was so ahead of my time), a calendar complete with decals for all the holidays, a weather chart, desk name tags, rubber stamps, pointers, and those EZ Grader cards teachers used to calculate a students' percentage score.
I would fill the grade book with the names of my friends, and you could always tell when I was mad at one of my girlfriends by the string of Fs next to her name. I lectured students dolls when they were off task, and I handed out stickers for good behavior. There were many July days when school started in my basement at 8 am and continued on a regular school schedule all throughout the day, complete with bathroom breaks, lunch, and recess. I had this teaching thing down.
In what goes down in history as my greatest childhood present ever, my dad was able to snag an old overhead projector from his school. I was the envy of the neighborhood girls, and when I wasn't in the middle of a riveting long division lesson, the transparencies were used by all my friends to doodle the names of all the boys we loved. Hmmm. I wonder if those transparencies are still in my parents' basement.
It was clear pretty early on in my life I was destined for the classroom. As discussed in my first blog post, the writer in me dabbled with a career a journalism, and I actually entered college as a journalism major. When it came time to sign up for journalism-related classes, I wasn't feeling it. Days later I sobbed my way through an episode of Oprah honoring teachers who had changed the lives of their students. I called my mom to tell her I was changing majors.
"Yeah," she said. "I knew this was coming. You're meant to be a teacher."
Surely you've seen those Facebook posts that break down a teacher's salary into an hourly wage only to find that a fifteen-year-old babysitter could make double my salary. No one teaches because of the money.
We teach because of the kids.
The kids give this job value, and they ensure one day never looks like the next. They make us laugh, they make us think, and they stretch our minds to keep learning. They freak out with excitement when we make applesauce and gingerbread houses, and they scream in disgust when we dissect owl pellets and carve pumpkins. They ask questions I don't have answers to, they clap at the end of really good books, and they love me even when I'm crabby. They have millions of stories to tell (but never have anything to write about during writers' workshop...???) and usually just have to tell their stories right in the middle of a mini lesson. They're honest and funny and curious, but they are also exhausting and frustrating and kinda annoying every once in awhile.
They ask so many questions and always need to go to the bathroom right after we finished a bathroom break. They forget simple routines like how to sign up for lunch, how to roll dice so they don't fly across the room, or how to put books back in the CORRECTLY LABELED TUBS!!! They get loud and silly and squirrely, and by golly, there are so many of them all in one room! And then, just when teachers thinks we might lose our minds, we remember we have a staff meeting after school, a parent conference during prep, and data charts that need updating by Friday. We have report cards going home next week, a newsletter that should have gone home today, and Halloween decorations hung up in the hallway even though it's December.
On those days, we survive until 2:30, get those darlings out the door, and stumble into a coworker's room, but she’s not really coworker; she’s a friend. We plop down into chairs that are too small for us and hope someone has a good story to tell. We count on each other to remind us why we do this job.
Yesterday I said good-bye to the kids. That was hard.
Today I said good-bye to my friends. That was worse.
These are my girls - the ones who have made the rough days tolerable and the good days even better.
When you work alongside people for eight years, the line between personal life and professional life is quickly blurred, and pretty soon you're just family.We laugh, cry, tease, celebrate, annoy, apologize, advise, and endure. Then we come back tomorrow to do it all over again.
There have been babies, parent illnesses, and deaths.
There have been new homes, engagements, ex boyfriends, first dates, second dates, and weddings.
There have been an insane amount of group texts (most of which I never join).
There have been overnight conferences, dinner celebrations, and life-changing desserts.
We've sent kids to college and to kindergarten and to sitters for the very first time.
We've raced down the hallway in trash cans and built human pyramids.
We've endured the wrath of angry students' parents and a hand slapping from the boss.
We've pulled off some good pranks. (Do stolen cars, flipped desks, tuna cans, and dirty diapers ring a bell, BECKY?!?)
We've lost kids on fields trips (What?!!? NO! That never happens....), and danced our hearts out for some of the greatest Talent Show teacher acts in the history of Connersville.
We've sent text messages to our boss that were intended for our husbands - oh wait, that was just me! (Ugh.)
And for nearly eight years, we've sat around a lunch a table - in a room the size of a closet - and lived life together.
We had a great run, and I couldn't have done it without them.