Monday, May 24, 2010

What? You have a real job?

Yes, I have a real job. A day job. A daily grind. I have one. I don't talk about it too much because that's taboo in Blog Land, right? Well, tonight I'm breakin' the rules.

I teach art. To be fancy, I am a visual arts instructor at the high school level. And to be honest, I really like what I do.
As in any teaching profession, you might reach a very small percentage of what comes through your door, if you're lucky. And this year, I was extremely lucky. I miss them already.
No lies.

It was one of those insane years. You know. You've read the papers. You've watched the news. Dekalb County Schools are in trouble! And our little school felt the pinch of the economy as well as the repercussions of attempts to lessen the financial burden felt by the board of education. Well, there are other parts to the equation, but let's just say this was a difficult year.

In the midst of all the turmoil, I thought about quitting. I really wanted to throw in the towel after hearing that the salary decrease of 6.25% was approved. It's bad enough that several of my colleagues won't be returning after the summer but now I'll be making less next year than in the past three years of teaching! The logical answer is to quit, right?
But let's face it: I'm lucky to even have a job. The economy sucks.
And furthermore, and more importantly, I realized I don't want to quit teaching just yet.
As crappy as this year was in all other respects, teaching, just the act of teaching was so rewarding for me this year. I loved my kids. I only hope that next year is as wonderful.

Look at this group!

Can you guess which kid is my art student?

I particularly became close to the students that I had yearlong- my advanced placement kids. I am so proud of each and every one of them. They accomplished so much and I hope their portfolio scores reward them for their efforts.

One of my students, after finding me on facebook, requested her very own blog post (which is really the inspiration for this) but I am compromising by making it more general. Sorry, kid. That's the best I can do. To single you out right now just doesn't seem fair.

Now, to get back on track, these kids are amazing. They reek of talent.
See for yourself:

That's just a small sample of the AP kids' work. Even my general classes blew me away. Kids that had never ever taken an art class before created some of the most beautiful artwork. They surprised themselves, even.

It was my kids, not the decreasing paycheck that kept me going this year. I realized it during graduation.

At graduation, our school's valedictorian captivated the audience with his speech. He singled-out several inspiring teachers and commended them for their hard work. Students and parents alike would clap loudly at the mention of each dedicated teacher. I secretly kept wishing I'd hear my name in his speech, but never did. It ended and I was a little sad that I had not made an impression on this outstanding student or the senior class for that matter.

Recognition goes a long way.

Well, after the ceremony, there was much hustle and bustle leaving the church. I bumped into the valedictorian. He grabbed my arm and he said, "Mrs. Georges. I want to show you something." He unraveled some folded up papers to reveal the framework for his incredible, moving speech. He leaned over to me in the crowd and pointed near the bottom of the second page. "Read it," he said.
I did. And in doing so, I saw that he had thanked me for creating such a memorable yearbook.
I glanced at him and smiled.
He explained that he had mistakenly skipped over an entire paragraph without realizing it- the paragraph with my name in it. He pointed to it again as if to say, "It's right there. See? I did recognize you." He smiled back.

In that moment, I gave him a big hug, thanked him sincerely and came to a huge realization, myself.
I know I make a difference in these kids' lives. I know they enjoy having me as their teacher. I know they learn from me. I know they do. I don't have to hear it. Why did I think I had to hear it?
It was almost better that the valedictorian didn't recognize me publicly but did so in private. It was almost more touching. He went to all the trouble to seek me out so that I alone would know he appreciated me. And in a way, I know he spoke for the entire senior class.

Just that one simple act of acknowledgment gave me enough fuel to want to teach another year.
It made it all worth it. That, and my art students.

Want to know the funny thing?
After realizing this and coming to peace with the fact that I might not ever be recognized or fully appreciated by my peers or the administration I miraculously was, today, in a faculty meeting. I had to laugh about it, really laugh about it after I was called up to receive my shiny red apple trophy.

Goes to show you the saying is true: When you least expect it....

Bring it on 2011.


Blogger The Wheeler Family said...

You are such a good writer Angela - I always enjoy reading your blog. This post hit home for me big - I was having some very parallel events and emotions going on re: my Girl Scout troop this year, I can so relate. This was encouraging in many ways. Have a great summer

9:27 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Amazing artwork and beautiful words, Angela. I'm sure the kids will miss you just as much--if not more--than you miss them. Any student would be lucky to have a teacher like you.

10:18 PM  
Blogger jfickes said...

I can only imagine what an amazing teacher you are, and what an inspiration you are to your students and peers. There is always that special teacher who makes a difference, and I know that for this generation you are that person. I'm glad that you get to be in a place where you are recognized for it as well.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Cary Walker said...

lovely post

7:13 PM  

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