It's time. I've been putting it off for a lot of reasons. The main one is I've been busy. I haven't been here if you didn't notice. Which you probably didn't :) I was on vacation, then had a sick hubby, and I've been out of my bloggy routine.
Know what else? It's kinda scary.
I was scared when I first started this series. Afraid of what I would stir up in my heart. Afraid of criticism. Afraid even my "good" readers wouldn't "get it." Afraid no one could truly comprehend it. At the same time, it felt soooooo good to start pouring it all out. It felt freeing to just say it all. Well, type it all.
And now, this is it. I've told everyone how theraputic it's been. How writing it has finally helped me deal with it and get some closure. So what if I post this last installment, and when it's over, I don't feel free from it? But. The only way to know is to do it. So prepare yourself for a long ending.
When I sat and thought about how to write this, I knew there was only one way. I've pulled from my old Myspace blogs I wrote at the time. I didn't divulge the things I've told you here. I still feared The Beast (and with good reason), but I had to express my thoughts. So, here is 2008 Andrea with her story:
This has been one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I don't mean incredible as in amazing. I mean incredible as in, wow. How did all that happen?
As you have read, I turned in my resignation on Tuesday of last week. At that point I felt I had done everything in my power to be who I am, to teach the right way, and to make my voice heard. I had followed every procedure correctly, yet it got me nowhere. It seemed the harder I tried, the more I came under fire. Placing my resignation on my boss's desk was one of the most relieving things I have ever done. It was as if the weight was completely lifted off my shoulders. I still, however, felt very sad, very distraught, and very helpless.
Hopeless is probably the best word to describe my attitude this year. I looked forward to August this year for the first time in my life. I was sadly disappointed. And I cheated my kids. I am not blaming myself. No one knows what I have endured. Even if I told you everything there is no way you could fathom the depths of despair I have endured. It was physically impossible for me to give my all when I was being crushed.
My point, though, is that for the first year, I probably taught without putting my WHOLE heart into it. If I had to pick a group of kids who I had impacted, I would not have picked this bunch. I felt I had failed them. Of course I was programmed to think that, but that's beside the point.
I went into teaching to love kids, it's my job. I have a passion for them and a heart for them. I desire to work in their lives and help make them who they need to be. But I realized this week that they love me just as much, if not more, than I love them. That is a powerful thing. I can't describe what it feels like to know that literally hundreds of people love you for who you are. They love me even though they've seen me at my worst, and some of them really have. They love me even though I am not always lovable. They love me even though I have sometimes been unfair to them, or sometimes punished them. They love me even though I haven't had enough love to give them this year. I am overwhelmed.
Not only have these kids loved me, now they have taken a stand for me. They don't want me to go...but even knowing they may never persuade me to stay, they have stuck their necks out. They have stood up and said, "we support you" even though they know there may be repercussions for those actions. They are bolder and braver than I could ever be. I am amazed at the things they have said, things they have done, and things they plan to do. It's so overwhelming I can't even really express to them how I feel, how much I love them, or how grateful I am for the care and appreciation they have shown me.
If I had to come to one conclusion, it would be this: For all the chaos and drama we associate with teenagers, they are brave and amazing people. They are the ones who will change the world if we'll just let them.
My time at Warsaw High School has officially ended. Grades have been entered, my room has been cleaned out (as much as it's going to be) [2011 Andrea laughs as she remembers how much CRAP she left for The Beast to clean up], and my goodbyes have been said. That whole sentence is passive, but I like it that way.
My last week at WHS was the best by far. I no longer felt like I was under the watchful scrutiny I had endured all year. I had the "what-are-they-going-to-do-fire-me?" attitude all week. We watched movies, we talked, we took pictures, and we had fun.
I had contemplated all spring what my final goodbye would be like. Obviously I told all my kiddos goodbye. I added them to Myspace (gasp!), I wrote them notes, I hugged them (something they don't see much of...because of the bubble).
For a better part of the spring there have been a pair of hot pink athletic shorts in my top left drawer. It was a strange prank, and I am still not sure what the *actual* punchline was, but I love pink, they give me Hell for it, and they stuffed the shorts in my drawer as a joke one day when I was gone.
We jokingly said I should wear them on the last day. I had thought for weeks about snide remarks I might make, things I might say, or things I might do on that last day. However, I didn't want to appear to have no class. I didn't want to stoop to Its level. On the last day of actual classes, my kids presented me with a tree-killer t-shirt they made me [because of the massive amounts of worksheets I'd given them, you know, because they weren't doing ENOUGH work as per Beasty]. With that, my 'last day' plan began in full force.
I didn't do anything crazy, but I made one last connection with my kids. I wore the hot pink shorts and tree-killer shirt under my polo and jeans. Didn't want any teachers catching wind of my plan. It seemed to take forever to get to my name, but finally they were just one teacher away. When it was almost my turn, I went behind the stage, pulled a "superman" clothes change, slid into my hot pink flip flops, and strutted onto the stage as the first teacher walked away.
My kids went wild. It was an amazing feeling. I looked out and saw a few of the other girls wearing hot pink shorts and home-made t-shirts. I'd assured them there was NO! WAY! I was going to wear mine. It just wouldn't be professional. So they were beaming when they saw me.
I gave my top student awards (yawn) like everyone else, but then I just took a minute to be different. To be me. To love my kids, even the ones some people find unlovable.
I gave outstanding awards to kids who did well in class and showed tremendous character [Monty was among them]. These were the ones who stood up for me, who fought for my job, who prayed for me, loved me, and wanted nothing in return.
I gave a special award for enduring hardships to the boy I was supposedly "dating" as per The Beast(Its face, I hear, was priceless at that time). I gave the kid who passed by the skin of his teeth a Jack Johnson cd because that's what he likes, and because passing by the skin of his teeth was an accomplishment for him. I gave a princess award, complete with crown, to my "teacher pet" and a few others.
Then I gave a poetry award to a student who wrote every poem about pot (metaphorically, of course). But he wrote every poem. A stoner. Wrote every poem. That's an accomplishment! So I wrote one for him:
Ok. A few things you need to know to get this poem.
1) Greg's nickname is Toke (because...well, you know). I refused to call him that or to accept anyone calling him that in class. Prude, maybe..but there has to be a line.
2) Greg wrote every poem about pot in some way. He was sneaky about it (not sneaky enough for me, but sneaky enough it wasn't inappropriate). In his poems were often rhymes including green, bud, and blunt (all used in an appropriate form of course)
3) Greg had NO IDEA about this award, and I read this poem to the entire school before announcing his name (at the end of the poem) for the award..so it was kind of a cool effect.
His poems always made me smile;
If only for a little while
His metaphors were perfection,
But often brought up many questions
The sideways glance was ever-there
As I listened the class would stare
Predicting what his words would be
His rhyming always to a T
It never was a proven theory
But I've always been a little leery
Wondering what his poems mean
Or if they're as deep as they seem
And though his name is sometimes mud
His poems were never, ever duds
Here's to my unlikely poet
None of you would ever know it
He's quite the writer, it's no joke
I present this now, to my friend..........Greg.
Everyone applauded. It was great.
Finally I honored my English III class. It was just one section, and these poor kids had worked all year to figure out why I wouldn't let them hug me. They were the boys the other teachers warn you about. The ones who know how to be obnoxious. The ones who know how to make you crazy without breaking any handbook rules. Throughout the year I realized they had some kind of obsession with using the words lodge, wedge, and power as a verb for..uh..having relations. Every story we read without a doubt had one of the three words and I had to spend ten minutes quelling the laughter and getting back on task. It was annoying, but by the end of the year I knew I had to just accept it and do my best to avoid the words at all costs.
Just before school was out I found a t-shirt at Maruices that had a log cabin on it and said "Lost Love Lodge," and I had to buy it. It made me smile. I wore it under my tree-killer shirt and made the switch once more for this part of the awards ceremony. I gave boys awards who never get awards, just because everyone deserves an award sometimes.
And when I walked off that stage, in my stupid pink shorts, yellow "lodge" shirt, and with tears in my eyes, I saw them rise to their feet. I heard them hollering and yelling my name. No matter what crap happened this year, for those few minutes, it was just me and my kids.
I got many compliments, from teachers, from even an administrator, about how great my presentations were. "You should've seen Pierre's face when you gave him that award. I don't think he's ever got an award. That's a great thing you did," Mr. Assistant told me. And that is exactly what teaching is all about. It's not about getting the highest scoring kids, or getting through the book. It's about reaching the sometimes unreachable. It's about making a difference in a life. And when I walked off that stage, I knew my mission was accomplished. That's an amazing feeling. The reward for my struggles.
That day was the best day I'd had in two years. It made me realize that even at what felt like my worst, I was reaching someone. I was making connections, and despite EVERYTHING The Beast had tried to make others (and even me) believe about myself, IT WAS WRONG. I succeeded. Maybe not by Its terms. Maybe not in the MOST professional sense, but I succeeded.
I made it through the worst time of my entire life.
I didn't give up.
I didn't quit.
I lived to tell the story.
And I'm better for it now.
As for The Beast? It's still teaching. It's still corrupting. It kept after me even after I left the district, and I had some rough times at Its hand, but I survived.