LET ME TELL YOU A STORY. I'll start at the beginning: Chapter One - I Am Born. Just kidding. I love that joke. By the way, that is actually how David Copperfield by Charles Dickens starts which lets you know you are in for a seriously long story. But, I digress.
This is the story of a teacher. She got a job in a pretty strange way. She was teaching second grade at a school in Concord, CA. It was where she got her first teaching job. The school actually had a binder that she used all day long. It not only told her what lessons to teach, but literally told her what to say every day. It wasn't the most exciting approach to teaching. She stayed at that school for two years because she felt it would look better than teaching one year in one spot and moving on, so when it came to renew her contract for year 3 she said, 'No, thanks." She had the arrogance of youth on her side, and it didn't bother her too much that she didn't have a new job just yet. She felt that it was important to teach somewhere else so that she didn't fall into a comfortable, easy habit. And then one day, one of her students asked if her Aunt could come to school with her. Cristina (who was a seriously adorable button-nosed 2nd grader) said her aunt was a teacher at a school in Vacaville, and was on her spring break and loved to hang out with her nieces and go to class with them. The aunt happened to attend one of the strangest days of school ever. It was a half-day for some reason, there was an assembly and a police dog visited the class. The young teacher was pretty sure the aunt left her visit thinking that little Cristina had pretty mediocre teacher. Yet in the weeks following, she kept getting messages from the aunt who really, really wanted to talk to her. It turned out that little Cristina's Aunt was resigning her position and really wanted this teacher to take her spot. She had an interview all lined up and all the teacher had to do was agree to the date and time.
This is how I ended up teaching school in Vacaville for fifteen years. The principal offered me the job during the interview, and after I agreed said, "Oh, by the way, I'm moving to Texas, so you'll be working for someone else. I haven't met her yet." Talk about a swticheroo! Of course, when I met the new principal I was more than happy. I worked for her for fourteen years, and although her fight with cancer ended with her leaving all of us, part of me still feels like I work for her; trying to rise to her unbelievable talent, kindness, integrity, intelligence and charm.
Leaving Vacaville was an unpleasant experience. I can remember standing in the parking lot lifting a box into the back of my car when a very sweet parent said, "I am so sorry to see you leave us. I so wish you had your teaching credential." She said this because they had sent out a letter explaining why they had let so many teachers go. I hope that my tone was polite when I responded with, "I have a teaching credential. I have a California teaching credential and have had it since the day I started teaching here." I can still remember her look of surprise and confusion. I know the feeling, lady.
I thought it was the end. I was pretty devestated. It is always shocking when you have to live with a forced change. I thought I would spend my entire career at that school. I was popular and well-known. I was successful and had recieved awards for teaching. When administration changed and they started making changes, I felt like an orphaned child who had been left behind; utterly rejected.
It wasn't like it was tough for a couple of days. It was a tough year or two. I spent time questioning a lot of things. I wasn't sure I should teach. I wasn't sure I could teach. It was pretty challenging.
Fast forward to three years ago.
I found myself a "brand new" teacher all over again. This time in the public school system. I was a totall newbie. Schools have a language all their own, and arriving on the campus of a public school I heard all kinds of acronyms and lables that I had never heard before. It felt like I had arrived in a country where I didn't even know the language. Everything was new and I was very nervous. It was a reboot of my entire career.
It was one the best things that has ever happened to me. I love my new job. I love working for the state of California. And it isn't just because when they showed me my salary I burst into tears overwhelmed by my pay increase. It is being in a place where you have purpose and are surrounded by people with a common goal. It is doing the very thing you were made to do.
Tomorrow morning, I am taking 90 students on a field trip. The trip is 100% free to the students, and at 6:30 a.m. charter busses are picking us up and taking us to Levi Stadium. The 49ers have an AMAZING education program. Students will spend their day in the state-of-the-art classrooms that were built inside the stadium for the sole purpose of connecting science and engineering to sports. We have this opportunity because my students worked crazy, crazy hard on a math challenge that I signed them up for. When i signed them up for the Learnstorm Challenge through Khan Academy, I had no idea what it was. I just knew it looked like a good idea; it was.
I thought being let go from job in Vacaville was the end. It felt like it was over. It felt horrible; like it was the worst possible thing to happen to me. Now, I am grateful. I have one of the best jobs I have ever had. The only thing missing from it is a few wonderful educators I used to work with, who would LOVE my Phillips family. I would love to work side-by-side with them again, and THIS school is where they would want to be. I love what I get to teach and have an unbelievably kind and supportive administration. I am 100% blessed.
If you ask the Husband how I feel about change, he will fall off the couch laughing. He knows that change and I aren't friends. Althought, lately it seems that change and I are forming a tenous alliance -- you can accomplish some pretty crazy stuff if you are brave enough to say, 'Why not?" The pain, anguish and humiliation of those dark times only makes these days all the sweeter. I am so proud of all my students have accomplished and I am doubly proud to stand beside my co-workers who are the most dedicated and committed people you could ever meet.
My favorite lines from Lin-Manuel Mirand's song, "Wait for It" pretty much sum up those days for me:
"I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable. I am an original. I'm not falling behind or running late. I am not standing still. I am lying in wait."
I've been there man. It looks like you've fallen behind. It seems like you are out of sync and everyone is passing you by. It feels like you've taken a wrong turn somewhere. In reality, your day is coming. It might be something you never expected or even had the vision to imagine, but it is there just around the next bend. You just have to wait for it.
It is on its way to you, like the rising dawn.
Don't give up. Keep going.