Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"This is your only chance to be famous..."

One afternoon in early February as the school day was ending, I reached for my phone to see if my parents had arrived safely into town.  Instead of a text from them, I read the staggering words that Bev Bos had died. I reread them not believing, and a lump built in my throat. A mentor, a dear friend, someone who was always there for us, and always made us feel important, was gone forever...it just didn't seem real. It still doesn't.

The next day I walked into our school office hiding my emotions, and heard that I had been chosen as our school's teacher of the year. For various reasons it all seemed unimportant. I tried to process the idea of this award and the death of someone so dear to my heart. Someone who taught me so much, and helped me become a stronger teacher and parent. I felt an emptiness and a strong desire to make her proud.

A while passed and the award was announced at a staff meeting.  I wanted the attention to go away quickly.  I smiled said thanks and we moved on. More time went by and I had to have my picture taken.  Then I put it aside again or so I thought.  Somewhere in the background this award started pushing me in a way unknown to me at the time.  I began to reflect more on things I learned from Bev. Things that were said at her memorial. Things that echoed in my head. I thought about things I used to do when I first started teaching.  I uncovered pieces that I loved most.  I wanted to live them again.  I wanted to bring them to life. Perhaps in some way I wanted to make sure that if I was to earn this award I wanted to make sure I truly did.

Time passed and May arrived and last night I attended the Teacher of the Year Recognition Dinner.  At a friend's birthday brunch on Sunday, Josh told people about the award. The night before that at his concert my mother-in-law said she didn't even know I had received it.  I hadn't really told people. I don't know why. Maybe it wasn't about the award.  To me that wasn't the important part.

The day of the dinner and celebration my uncomfortable feelings had me wishing I didn't have to go. We arrived and I was so nervous and uncomfortable. It is not like receiving a rowing award. In rowing, you work so hard to the point of exhaustion just like in teaching, yet you have your crew. You are not alone.  You row to the awards dock with them.  You get out, you join hands with these people that have helped you become a better you. These people who have helped you see that you have more to give than you originally thought you could.  It is more than just you.

In rowing there is more than just you. It can't be done with just you.  You have to bring your best self, you have to face your fears that your best might not bring you across the finish line first. Your best is going to hurt at times, and also be the most amazing ride. Your team, your coach, your cheering section...you wouldn't be at that awards dock without them.  You wouldn't be your best self without them. The same is true in teaching.

When I chose to leave competitive rowing I met with the national team coach. He told me, "Lady, this is your only chance to be famous."  I don't remember all we said to each other that day, but I do remember that, and how it made me feel. I never went through all that to be famous. It was my love for being a part of such amazing teams.  I knew then and I have never regretted my decision. I knew I was ready to move onto my life as a teacher. I had learned all I needed for myself as a rower.

The more I teach, the more I learn how important the sport of rowing was for me. I didn't row to "become famous". I rowed for much more selfish reasons. I loved how it made me feel. It gave me strength (physical and emotional), determination, perseverance, and the deepest understanding of the importance of being a valuable member of a team. The friendships you build in that are long-lasting. For all this I am grateful and would never trade that in for fame.

The other day one of my students responded when I asked what they learned most about themselves through our collaborative science team work. He said so profoundly, "I always thought I worked best by myself, but working with all of this, I learned that sometimes you can get so much more done in a shorter time if you have a good team. I don't teach to be famous and receive awards. I teach because even though at times the job can be grueling, it also has such beauty.

I wavered back and forth about posting and sharing about my award last night.  I didn't attend that dinner to be famous.  I was sweating and uncomfortable and feeling super awkward until it was over. But somehow, while we were waiting our turn to be introduced and the woman next to me kept telling me how proud of us and excited she was, I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't feel that giddy about it all too. I suppose I wanted my crew.  I wanted to be there with my team.  There is that saying "It Takes a Village..." because really there is no way someone can do this teaching gig alone. After I survived walking across the stage towering over everyone I shook hands with, Josh and I headed out of the event.  He later wrote a post about it all with his perfect blend of love and humor. I decided to share as well and I will say that reading through all the comments and posts shared with me this last day has filled me with an overwhelming amount of love, gratitude, and inspiration to push myself to grow even more. If only we could all come together and have a grand party. Oh the fun we would all have! In the meantime thanks for being my team.