I am an eternal optimist despite my tendency to worry about the worst case scenario.
I was recently asked in an interview, how I would remain optimistic in the face of change?
I without hesitation responded, “Gratitude. I am thankful for what I get to do every day.”
That sounds so banal, so cheesy, too good to be true. Maybe, it’s one too many yoga trainings. Maybe, it’s one too many yoga practices.
But it’s true.
On my campus, I am a veteran teacher not only in years of service but years on this earth. And despite my age, I outlive many in my sunny outlook.
I taught the first 12 years of my career in an urban district serving English Language Learners at a Title I school. I loved them. I found their resilience in the face of all their challenges to be inspiring and humbling. I was in the district enough to ride several waves of initiatives and the ebb and tide of support and scapegoating, but I had to leave. I couldn’t bear to see decisions that did not serve our students. I could no longer be a part of an organization that despite being given monetary support, these resources were squandered with little to no benefit for our students.
So I courageously left a job I loved… and I felt guilty.
A new possibility fell into my lap. Ok, I was driven to the interview of a job that had just opened up on that day, but you get what I mean.
It was a dream. Progressive district. Plenty of resources. Project-based learning. Interdisciplinary class. Non-traditional class schedule. Small learning community. Weekly staff development. Service learning. Traditions.
I was hired late. I had a huge learning curve to beat, and I knew the parents in this community would be much more active in their children’s education because they could be.
But I thrived. I was teaching in the type of place I had read about, I was learning along side other educators who were hungry to make learning relevant and challenging. I was supported to have autonomy in curricular decisions, and I responded with excitement, energy, and risk-taking.
When I think about the context in which I teach, I often pinch myself. When I remember all of my students, I beam.
And it may be stupid. It may seem like my life is simple. But I smile a lot. I mean, a lot. I am amazed every day. I have a hearty belly laugh every day. I am challenged often, and because of that, I seek more.
Who wouldn’t be thankful for that?
So when thinking of that question: “How would I remain optimistic in the face of change?”
I seek change. I crave change. I don’t want to sit idle content with what I do and have. I want this because I want that for my students. I want them to find their edge soften and find another one.
SO how could I not be grateful for this struggle that change can bring about? Struggle is where we grow. It is an opportunity to explore something new or old or never imagined or missed.
I often wonder where that will take me… that hunger for asking what’s next? I wonder how this will impact my son. I wonder if he will search for the same or something similar or see my many failures and shy away from my path.
I wonder. I’m curious, but I want him to have his own journey as I have my own.
But I do want him to take moments to reflect and be thankful… be thankful to feel and to experience and to be scared and to be brave. Be thankful to have opportunities to fail… but also opportunities to succeed… and opportunities to succeed and fail all at once if necessary.
If I could I would hug each and every student and parent for this amazing time that has been granted to me. The honor of being able to teach and learn with these incredible young people who give me something I will always try to return. That never ending quest to welcome change with humility and honor and service.
I would never describe myself as brave. But when others describe me, they see me as such, and I realize what an unexpected yet welcome calling this is. To love something so much that taking risks comes naturally. That I can accept myself being a goofy overly excited nerd of an educator geeking out on the cool things my learners can do and create and contribute to the world and be ok with that. Being more than ok. Being proud and content and grateful for the chance to be this way. It is truly home.
Written at the NWP Resource Development Retreat in Denver, Colorado in July 2017