And So Ends the First Year…

Time really did fly after Spring Break. It still seems surreal that an entire year of teaching has gone by. Just a year ago I was headed to Tulsa like the 2013s are to teach summer school, and now I’m dusting off the final pieces of my first year of teaching as I put the final sentences on my End of Year reflection guide. The guide was filled with questions about whether or not I put my students on life-changing pathways or if I believed I kept to my vision for my classroom. There were so many questions, and I have a multitude of thoughts about the school year. I thought I’d write this incredibly deep and reflective post about what the year has meant to me. But nothing ever sounded right. Nothing ever quite encompassed what happened to my students or me in Room 3081 of Miami Northwestern Senior High School. I can simply say that no one left the journey unmarked. I think the best way to describe the year is through this note I received at the end of the year from one of my female students. It embodies who I wished to be as a teacher, and how I hope the vast majority of my students viewed me and the unforgettable year we spent together, proving that even though my students may be “poster children” of the achievement gap–with one foot on the ledge and the other dangerously hovering above the chasm between success and dropping out/off–with hard work they can put both feet firmly back on solid ground.

(The authenticity of the note, including mistakes, has been kept so it is more real.)

Ms. Younge

Today my class are writing a thank you note to the teachers. I choose you Ms. Younge because you are a great teacher and I don’t like the subject reading but you made me love it and this year it was my favorite subject. Even though I get bad grades and we still trying I was kinda shy to ask for help at times. Having you as a teacher really anchored me to the school and help me feel comfortable. As a teacher you put me at ease and helped me find success in a subject I was more frustrating. You taught me to incessantly push to get better, work harder, and focus on the details. I make decisions today with that mindset–to learn but never regret and live with my goals in mind. As a teacher your dedication and no excuses attitude enabled me to feel like a valuable part of something important. I would like to thank you Ms. Younge for me and a hundred of other students you made an unquantifiable positive in our life.

Love: D.M. Always

Practicing Identity

I think the things we want most in life, the things we think will set us free, are not the things we need.  -Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Sometimes who we are is clouded by distractions. In Blue Like Jazz, Miller states that he would never stop his spiritual journey with God for intellectual reasons but only for social distractions and pressures. Every person knows those pressures well. I have felt them strongly at different intervals in my life, times when the desire to just be like everyone else and dabble a little here and there sneak in and you convince yourself it will be okay. It’s hard to be the different one as cliche as that sounds. I remember growing up as the only dark face in a sea of white faces in school. When I was much younger I would think to myself how much easier life would be if I just looked like everyone else. But then I realized how easy it is to blend in and be ‘one of the masses.’ And I decided that if I was going to stand out then I was going to be as memorable as possible, and set out to be more than just a different skin color. I owned my identity, and put in practice exactly who I wanted to forge myself to be.

If I want to be who I am though I have to not just say who my identity is, but also practice it daily. If I believe that my life has a special purpose, I have to mark my journey in life accordingly. I went on a date today and throughout the date this guy took stabs at my intelligence because I believe in a higher power. Beyond the fact there will be no second date, it also reinforced my feelings that my faith is the center of who I am–my identity.

In church today the pastor reminded the congregation that for a pot of stew, Esau exchanged his identity, his inheritance. That really struck a chord with me and stuck with me all the way home tonight. I can’t falter to the pressures of being someone and doing things that I am not. I don’t want to lose everything I could potentially have, all of life’s promises I believe are set aside for me, because of a temporary bowl of soup. As I constantly tell my students, I have to see the bigger picture and know that the story of my life is bigger than this singular moment.