Looking at the reflection in the window of a brand new classroom, I can see my people standing behind me. I treasure the moments when life comes full circle; where beginning meets beginning. Looking in, I see windows and giant ceilings and I picture barn doors between classrooms and roll up garage doors that will bring the larger community together. I picture a teacher at the beginning of a career building something with her students. Through the reflection I watch the dreams of new friends coming to fruition and I imagine old friends doing the same. I am thankful for those that made it possible for me to be in this moment standing on the precipice of something new.
Looking towards the future, I hadn’t been prepared for the present. Then Jill happened. I was looking ahead and Jill was waiting for me in the moment. I took the job as her assistant with the mindset to serve her. I wanted to honor the years she’s given to my children and others. When you go looking to serve another it is usually you who comes away changed. Over these last months, I have been of little use in her classroom. She’s seamless; transition to transition she makes the job look effortless. The veil has been lifted, though, and I know the blood, sweat and tears she puts in for the kids and for me. I am naive, and green, and have little to add to the profession of teaching, YET. Jill has spent countless hours modeling and exemplifying patience and virtue and quick wittedness and kindness to me and my first grade friends. She established a standard in which I now strive for; a tribute to a life’s work.
Hindsight allows me to see how I’ve been carried to this moment. Mrs. Jones was my high school English teacher and has become a writing mentor and friend to me. I wish I could go back and thank the teachers from my childhood. I wish I would’ve appreciated their hard work and dedication. So many times, when we’re learning a lesson, we can’t see the forest through the trees. I’m fortunate to have had great guides. I grew up in a scrappy community of learners that are still serving each other. My teachers did not stop supporting their students when we graduated all those years ago. I’ve learned from Mrs. Jones, a teacher commits to being an influence on the life of a child, even when they become an adult. Because a student graduates from your classroom does not lessen the responsibility you have for them as human beings. I am constantly amazed and thankful that they still show up for us.
Teachers build relationships. One of my first grade friends asked if I would remember who she was when I move to my new school next year. Teachers leave their imprint, and so do children. We don’t forget profound experiences like when we learn things for the first time. And, no, I will never forget that face or her toothless grin or her grit. First graders remind me to never give up. May we always have a sense of wonder and imagination. May we always see the world with childlike eyes. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously that we forget to play as we learn. And, most importantly, let us remember the humble beginnings that carried us into this moment.
My insides are a classroom being built. I’m gathering knowledge that will be passed on to someone I haven’t yet met. I imagine a student who has explored and wondered long enough that the confusing pieces start to fit. I picture this person’s perseverance in the face of adversity. I watch as they try and fail. I see mistakes being made and successes being rewarded. Someday, we will be there, in the reflection of a person with teary eyes on the precipice of something new and big. We will be watching as they build their own future, cheering them on. A tribute to the life’s work of so many.
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