Traditionally, the first full week of May is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Anyone who has spent time in a school or a classroom knows that teachers work hard. Teaching is a profession that is so much more than what you ever expect it to be. The planning, last minute coverages and daily challenges are tough on even the most seasoned professionals. This May, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on more than just the present. Teacher Appreciation is also about looking back on the teachers who have shaped us throughout our lives. Truly, Teacher Appreciation is so much more than simply appreciating our teachers.
How did I get here?
After writing that line, the Talking Heads song, Once In a Lifetime, is bouncing around in my head. It’s a question I ask myself at various points along the way in my life. Singer and songwriter, David Byrne once said in an interview with NPR that the song was about the passage of time and how we all essentially “wake up” one day and kind of ask ourselves “wait, how did I get here?” I think that sometimes we have an answer to that while sometimes we are startled once the autopilot gets turned off.
Take a moment and think about your life, your present, this moment. What path (or more likely, what paths, mountains, fire swamps) did you navigate to get to where you are? Formal education and specialized training for your career. What about your personal life? Probably some broken hearts and mistakes along the way (holds up a mirror on that one). So many moments in our lives shape us. Sometimes those moments leave holes, some moments heal.
I like to think about who I am and how I got here and who to thank for it. That would take me a really long time to run the whole gamut. In the wake of Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to focus on the gratitude I have for the educators responsible for helping me be my best me. The road to my becoming a teacher didn’t come naturally and I had to figure myself out first. Again, David Byrne talk/ singing “How did I get here?”
Finding a truth
Yesterday, I came across a re-Tweet that said something like, “People are worried about being called corny. I live life on the cob, baby.” Naturally, I thought that was hilarious. It also struck me as being a pretty authentic statement. Teaching middle schoolers right now, I’ve observed that they are consumed by perception and persona, sometimes to an extreme. I remember how hard the tweenage years were, I was wretched myself. Cursed with braces, my hair went dark and curly overnight and I assumed that my love life would mimic the angsty love on Dawson’s Creek (spoiler, it didn’t). So, obviously I was a real treat to be around.
Pre-teens and teenagers main mission is to figure things out. They’re trying out different looks, discovering what they like and forging their way into solidifying friend groups. What music you listen to and what you’re wearing are how you make your statement, THIS IS WHO I AM! The other day, I told a 6th grader that I thought Machine Gun Kelly was terrible and suggested instead a punk album from my youth. He responded, “But I LOVE him!” and told me that his mom listens to the album I recommended. So, I learned I need to butt out and also that I am old. Thanks, Hunter. It was a humbling moment. Sorry, buddy. You rock that MGK all you want!
Teacher Appreciation Time
The idea to write this post came to me not entirely from the obviousness of Teacher Appreciation Week, but also because last week I attended a retirement party. The event was to celebrate my beloved college adviser, Dr. Gene Farrington who taught English Studies and Theater at my alma mater, The College of Notre Dame of Maryland (now Notre Dame of Maryland University). He retired this year at the tender age of 90 which is nothing short of astounding. Astounding is also the impression I had upon looking around the room of (mostly) women (as it was a women’s college) and knowing what we all shared- this connection of love, loyalty and admiration to this man.
We were merely Freshmen
As a college student, I staggered into this new chapter in my life wearing an orange Hello Kitty shirt. I was away from home and so much was new to me. One of my dearest college friends holds a wealth of Freshman Courtney stories. My not knowing how to do my own laundry (terrifying). Or that a sauce pan was still hot after cooking eggs. A fact I learned after placing the used pan on our dorm carpet and leaving a singed ring behind as evidence. Remember I said we all take different paths to get where we are? Well, I am a pro at laundry and eggs these days, mostly, sort of.
Freshman mistakes aside, college was a transformative time for me. I see so much of this now in my rearview, but I don’t appreciate it any less. If anything, I appreciate it more. I am past the point in my younger years where I am stumbling through so much newness. Certainly, I am still learning, always, but it is different than I was at 18 or 19 or even 23. Thinking about the professors I had in college allows me to reflect deep within. Gene was so totally himself and unapologetic for it that it allowed me to open up. His guidance was unabashed, no sugar coating. I can recall things he taught me, things he advised me on as a younger version of myself and see now how it came to fruition.
Gene wasn’t the only teacher to impact me along the way, but he was a key player. I keep in touch with a handful of my other college professors who have continued to be valuable advisors and even friends in my adult life. Teachers do so much more than teach. I truly wish that more people knew that, people who are not in classrooms. If you find yourself unable to relate to what teachers might be doing, think back to your earlier years. 100% you are able to conjure up a name without thinking too hard. Maybe that teacher gave you a love for a particular subject, maybe they simply made you laugh and offered a safe space. Whatever the reason, everyone has that teacher. Remember to thank teachers, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week. Look up your former teachers, send them a message.
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.
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