011: Remember

During the summer of 1998, I spent an entire day in our local public library, looking at informational illustrated books about military uniforms over the centuries.  It hooked me.  I became borderline obsessed with everything military.  I wanted to join the United States armed forces.  I wanted to become a soldier.

Over time I realised that my interest in joining the military had nothing to do with how soldiers dressed, nor did the combat part interest me.  What captured my attention was the discipline each solider demonstrated in the pictures.  Under the harshest of conditions, each individual seemed composed, focused, and ready to take on whatever may come their way.  Granted, these were just pictures, but the images stuck with me till this day.  Right then, after spending a day at the library looking at these books, at the age of 14, I wanted to join the United States military.

Fast forward to 2002 – I did everything I could to join the United States Marine Corps.  I had been part of my local Young Marines program, I did what I could to pass my courses in high school, and I maintained a strong level of physical fitness.  However, soon after I graduated from high school, I was told I could not join the military because I had a history of severe asthma.  For over a year I fought this.  I trained, wrote to my local government officials, trained some more, visited every recruiting station I could, and continued to train.  I took the Armed Services Vocational Battery (ASVAB) assessment and was told that I scored so well that I could consider any role in the services I wished.  My physical fitness scores were far above what was required – higher than anyone in my recruitment class at the time.  My local senator wrote me a letter stating he believed that my commitment earned me the opportunity to prove myself in training.  I even went so far as to have my doctor write a lengthy letter stating his belief that I could serve.  However, in one hour, reviewers at my local Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) said I couldn’t join because if my asthma flared up in combat I could be a detriment to my unit.

While I understood their reasoning in many respects, I was severely disappointed.  So much so in fact, I fell into a depressive state.  A year later my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, helped me find a job working for a university as a landscape worker.  This was the start of something new for me.  Here I was able to take night courses, earning my Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences.

In 2008, my wife and I were taking some vacation time in Healdsburg, California.  For those of you unfamiliar with Healdsburg, it’s a wonderful little place situated within Sonoma County, wine country.  We were staying at a B&B located in town, and we spent the days touring different vineyards.  This was one of my favourite holidays to date for many reasons.  One reason was that I found my new passion, just like I did the day I was in my local library.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.  After a great day of visiting a few vineyards, my wife and I went out for dinner in town.  As we were walking back to our B&B, we passed a small elementary school.  The lights were on in the school, and I could see children’s work posted in the windows and on the walls.  The school seemed alive with student accomplishment and exploration.  I can still clearly see the building, the playground equipment, the pictures made by children, everything.  I knew right then, I wanted to become a teacher.  I wanted to help children explore their worlds and guide them through the process of creating meaning for themselves.  Soon after, I changed from my Masters of Counselling program to a Masters of Education program.  The rest was history.

What is so important about this story?  Why am I telling you this?  In a phrase – YOU MUST REMEMBER!

When you become a teacher, or any other professional for that matter, over time you will forget why you entered the profession.  Only a special few will be lucky enough to remember without reminders.  This, unfortunately, is just a fact of our current fast-paced culture.  Always looking forward, and forgetting not only where we came from, but why we chose the path we did.  This is something I’m guilty of more often than not.

Tonight, before writing this post, I was having a difficult moment with school.  The amount of administrative work, planning, and marking I have to do become overwhelming.  I thought, “Just a few more minutes of my favourite TV show won’t hurt.”  “Just a little more time playing my video game can’t be a bad thing.”  This translated into, “Why not do anything else besides improve myself as a husband and teacher because a few minutes of random crap can’t hurt, right?”  Not a good place to be mentally.

Then I remembered that night in Healdsburg, and I remembered the next morning when that commitment was reaffirmed.  It wasn’t just a moment of excitement; it was something that moved me to my core.  I wanted to support young people become amazing adults.  I wanted to inspire others to achieve great things.

Reflecting on Healdsburg started me down memory lane.  I began thinking about my first grade teacher, Mrs Mauer.  She was a very passionate teacher who cared deeply for her children.  She made every lesson exciting and engaging.  I still remember our unit on dinosaurs and how obsessed I became with the very topic because Mrs Mauer made it come to life!  I then began thinking about my high school Cross Country Coach, Mr Boston.  He was a tough person who came down on me often because of my lazy ways.  Although he frustrated me at the time, I realised many years later that he was teaching me one of the greatest lessons I have ever been taught – how to cultivate a “No Excuses” attitude.  These teachers, as well as many others impacted me in significant ways.

I remembered why I became a teacher.  I remembered why I wanted to pursue this difficult career path.  I wanted to create something great, just like my teachers before me did with many other students.  I wanted to create a legacy.

When you are feeling down, defeated, and outright exhausted, take 10, 20, even 30 minutes to remember why you entered the teaching field.  It’s important that we reflect as often as we can.  If you need to, write your reasons on a note on your refrigerator, on the board behind your computer, or even your bathroom mirror.  Reflect, and remember.  You became a teacher because something called to you.  Maybe it was a teacher that changed you, or something you read.  Maybe you decided to go into education because you were inspired by a film, or a situation you witnessed.  Hell, maybe it was a classroom at night time, alight with possibility.  Whatever the reason, REMEMBER!

Until next time!


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