Sunday, January 15, 2006

Because I Teach

I can't imagine having any job other than teacher. This picture was taken last year as my students and I were packing up my classroom (I was moving into my new room outside...a much better location!). I often bring costumes to school during my Shakespeare unit so that they can become another "persona" and have fun while getting through the often challenging text. For this picture, my AVID students decided to put on the costumes and act silly.

This past two weeks, being a teacher was difficult. I found out that a former student (not one seen in this picture) had committed suicide. Kenneth was one of those kids you just loved. He had an booming laugh and a great sense of humor. He could imitate "Stitch" from the movie Lilo and Stitch perfectly, and often did the voice for Emma and Grace if they saw him walking by after school. During our Shakespeare play and Renaissance Faire, he could speak in a perfect Shakespearean accent (even though he was African American who normally spoke with plenty of slang!) Whenver he would see me in the quad, he'd shout loudly, "Dawn Smith!!! Dawn Smith!!!" and I knew it was him, because no other kids call me "Dawn Smith."

Last Tuesday, I spoke at Kenneth's funeral. It was important for me to do tell his mom and dad how much he made us laugh, how much joy he brought, and how much he would be missed. It was difficult, but important. After sharing about him, I read a poem written by a pilot, about "flying high, dancing gracefully in the sky, and touching the face of God." I see Kenneth doing just that.

Until now, in nine years of teaching, I have never directly lost a student. One of MINE, the kids sitting in my room, making me laugh, adding their two cents into the discussion, reciting Shakespeare. I have never lost one of my own, and I guess I've been lucky. Teaching, like loving, makes you vulnerable! In nine years, I've probably taught over one thousand students. Call it luck, I guess, that so far I've only lost one. I know that this job, this passion of mine, will make me vulernable to loss. It gives me more resolve each day to make a difference in my students' lives, to treat them with kindness and compassion, and to help them see learning as fun. This is an enormous responsibility, but oh, what a reward! Other than motherhood, I wouldn't want any other job!

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