Friday, November 15, 2013

This is Why I Teach...

Walking up to the Stockdale theater tonight, my heart was already filled with nostalgia and joy...

Mirror Mirror (Sophomore year, I think)

I love any chance I get to return to the place that captured so much of my heart over ten years ago--the place where I spent my high school days, afternoons, and evenings learning, growing, trying, exploring, laughing, and crying.

You Can't Take it With You (Senior Year)

As I approached the theater, I was excited to see Pope and a fun show. I thought I might see another familiar person or two, but I had no idea what was about to happen.

"Ms. Erickson! Ms. Erickson!"--a sound I love more than I'd like to admit--filled my ears. The calls were followed by giggles and hugs.

Not one, not two, but around fifteen former students were at Mirror Mirror tonight--running up to me, hugging me, asking me about my classes, sharing their high school stories, and more than warming my heart.

This is why I teach. 

I didn't really understand the full circle of events until I got home after the show and thought back over the evening.

After entering the theater (and saying hi to my gaggle of kiddos), my first stop was the top right corner of the building--Pope. I ran up to her with my arms open and a huge smile on my face. I couldn't wait to say hi and catch up for a few minutes.

Wasn't that just what my kids had done with me?

This is why I teach.

After saying hi to Pope, I ran up to see Ms. Winston, my freshman year math teacher. We spoke about our jobs and my brother (her favorite ever!). We were both quite surprised that this is my fifth year of teaching (it still blows my mind!) and she asked if I still loved it. My response: Yes! Probably this year more than ever! I am more comfortable and confident. I feel at home in my classroom. I can now start to see that I'm making a bit of a difference.

This is why I teach. 

I honestly can't tell you much of anything I learned about algebra in Ms. Winston's class, but I remember laughing and joking around. I remember trusting her. I remember feeling comfortable and capable.

I remember bits and pieces of what I learned in drama class, but I could probably write a novel about how I felt during the four years I spent in that theater. I felt included and challenged. I felt vulnerable and encouraged. I felt able and valued. I felt important. I felt loved.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  ~Maya Angelou

This is why I teach. 

Teachers like Pope taught me more than curriculum--they taught me how to value and love people. Yes, English and reading are important. Yes, I need to teach my kids to the best of my ability. But, above all, I need to make them feel important, valued, and loved.

I cannot adequately express how my heart burst tonight as I heard the chorus of "Ms. Ericksons" around the theater. As my former students ran up to me, I got to experience a bit of the joy Pope feels as students run up the steps to see her. And, they do it year after year... even more than ten years later...

(And, how cool is it that some of my kids are now in drama with Pope?!? Full circle, I tell you.)

If I can make my students feel half as important and valued and loved as Pope did with me, then I know I'll be a successful teacher. It's not all about data and test scores, it's about changing kids' lives.

Pope changed mine, and I pray I'll be able to do the same with the kiddos God has entrusted to me.

Teaching isn't easy. Some days I want to throw in the towel. But, nights like tonight remind me that...


Marcy, Lauren, me, Lindsey, Pope, and Lorie at the Mirror Mirror 20 Year Reunion Show

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