Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Superhero's Time Away

Wanna know a secret? There really is such a thing as a superhero. Seriously.

We are surrounded by them, actually. There are all over the place, completely and perfectly disguised as regular people. And unless you spent a day with them, you'd never know of their powers.

If you ever want to scope one out, I'd suggest you go to your nearest school: elementary, middle, or high school, it doesn't matter -- you'll find them there. But if you want to see the super-est of superheros, go to the middle schools. After all, they hang out with 12 and 13 year olds all day long.

There are few things in my life that I am more proud of than to say that I am a teacher. It's a job that receives little appreciation, is given much scrutiny and blame, and requires everything out of you every day.

But the end product is nothing short of miraculous. A child adopted into the country with no language skills able to read on a 3rd grade level after spending only an hour a day with you (and 30 other kids at the same time). Many children with horrific personal pasts who come to you knowing only how to hate leave 9 months later having learned how to trust and love themselves. A child who has failed every reading class she's ever had respondes positively to one teacher's push to work hard and learn -- and she ends up excelling.

Those are some of my success stories. Those are my best. The ones that keep me smiling and kept me walking into my school morning after morning when the days just felt too dismal.

When my son was born on November 10, 2010, I never thought I'd be the kind of person who would ever entertain the thought of being a stay at home mom. If you had asked me on November 9th what my plans were, I would have told you very matter-of-fact: I will return to work in 7 weeks and continue my career.

But that didn't happen.

It seems I found my Kryptonite. And he stopped my life dead in its tracks. I took a one year leave of absence this school year so that I could spend this time with my son. I didn't want to miss a minute of his ever-changing life.

And during these months on leave, I have returned to my school a few times -- only to be received by squeals and hugs and giant smiles from former students. I'm not going to lie -- that feels pretty fantastic. To know that there children out there who I've made a positive impact on. Kids who like me and miss me despite the year of torture I put them through (here's a secret kids don't want you to know: they appreciate a strong adult who is loving but tough. They appreciate having someone who believes in them enough to push them past their comfort zone. Kids hate those people in the moment, but they love them afterwards {and let's be honest for a second -- the things kids hate changes by the second, so don't get your feelings hurt if they hate you. It'll change}).

Last week, I was invited to Educator Appreciation Night at my school. This is an event where students can acknowledge teachers who have made a difference in their lives. It was the first year I was invited, and when I learned of the student who invited me, to be honest, I was shocked. But I was also honored. Very honored.

So Cohen and I made our way to the school on Thusday night. There was lots of hugging and reuniting with favorite co-workers. Lots of stories to tell. It felt good to spend time with those Superheros again. And then I was recogonized by my student. I was given a certificate and this award.

I joked that, now that I don't have a classroom to display my award, I was going to put it on my mantel like an Oscar. But you know, I might just do that. Because it reminds the world that I am a superhero. And I made a difference.

And this morning? As I look at the award and think about the students who have changed my life, I'm getting ready to take a big step. Today I will go to the post office and mail a letter to my district. A letter that informs them that I will not be returning in August. In short, I'm quitting my job today. And I never thought I'd say this, but it's kind of bittersweet. I'm meant to be a teacher -- it's my calling. And one day when Cohen is older (or the bank tells me I have to), I will return to the classroom.

But for right now, there's a little boy with waffle on his face who needs me to be his superhero.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, Erica. :) It gets me thinking about some of my experiences in teaching thus far and how I'm still exploring the field.

    How and when did you know that you were called to be a teacher?


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