Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rewind Wednesday, Part 1: Last August 2nd

I haven't done a Rewind Wednesday for a while. I'm giving myself an hour to type this, then I have to get some rest before I spend the day at school tomorrow and then drive four and-a-half hours.

But what I have to say is important - to someone, hopefully. If not, it's just an important reflection to me about how this journey began.


I didn't even hear my cell phone ring. I was asleep, in the kitchen, with my forehead resting on the island. I had come home from Germany three days earlier and was still incredibly jet lagged. A few minutes later I drowsily checked my voicemail, not even lifting my head up. I think I dreamed a phone was ringing.

When I heard the message, I went from half asleep to almost falling off the kitchen stool.

I was being contacted to schedule an interview for the 2014 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. I scribbled down a call back number and a date on a piece of paper clinging to the refrigerator, and cleared my throat. Then I started pacing. I paced as I called to schedule my interview. I paced the house as I sent texts to what I hope were people in my contact list but maybe some random people that accidentally got added (but sent nice texts back anyway). I paced the house for probably an hour and-a-half, until my leg started aching.

I tripped getting on a train in Frankfurt two weeks earlier. In an instant I was between the stairs of a train and the train platform. While the teachers who were with me lifted me up and got me onto the train safely, I badly bruised and busted my right leg so much that within 24 hours I was in Heidelberg University Hospital emergency room because I could no longer put weight on it. I managed to make it through the remainder of the trip with a wrap and some mega-antibiotics, but still wasn't the most graceful creature on two legs (I'm still not).

In one week I was going to have an interview to represent the education profession in West Virginia, and I could barely walk - or recount what time zone I was in.

While my friends and colleagues sent their good vibes, I felt less and less confident each day as I wrapped my head around it all. I knew it was possible - but I didn't think it would really happen. This has gotten out of hand, I thought to myself. This is too big, too much for me. I'm a terrible speaker. I do weird, blinky things with my eyes when I talk. My eye contact is horrendous. I'm too silly and emotional (the side effects of being in the fifth grade for so long). I look like a fifth grader. 

(Keep in mind, through a lot of practice and YouTube videos on public speaking, I have conquered my public speaking quirks. I'm not as bad as I thought I was, but at this moment in my life I felt incredibly insufficient.)
I read something recently, how we shouldn't treat ourselves any worse than we would our best friend. As teachers, often we are our worst critics. It's safe to say at this point last late July I wasn't being a very good friend to myself. If it's possible to bully yourself, I was doing it.

I went through the next week pacing the house (in between elevating my leg), Googling everything about any and all education issues in existence (and making note cards - I don't know why, but for some reason, I went on an index card kick for six days, and I never use index cards). I wrote a speech. I practiced my speech. I timed my speech. I made other people listen to my speech. Other people, namely the administrators at the Berkeley County Leadership Academy, listened to my speech to give me an audience. They didn't have to do that, but they did. The support and confidence I received from my Berkeley County school family was uplifting beyond anything I could possibly deserve. I reviewed my "don't" list:

Don't cross your legs over and over. Don't cry, even if you're nervous. Don't take your glasses on and off. Don't freak out and make a fool of yourself and Berkeley County. Don't be silly. Pretend it's "Meet the Press." Act like the accomplished teacher you are instead of a scared kid on the first day of school.

I was so nervous my husband drove me to Charleston, taking a day and-a-half from work, because I would have driven off the road at that point - or turned around and gone home. I shuffled my index card collection and listened to myself say my speech on my phone (I recorded it over and over, because I wanted to make sure I enunciated everything correctly) the entire four and-a-half hour drive. You can only imagine what great company I was to have in that car.

Eventually, I went to sleep that night. I think I wore myself out with my antics. The next morning when I woke up, my eyes were itchy and swollen - probably from lack of sleep and the detergent in the hotel blankets. I was having a crazy hair day that no flat iron could tame (thank you summer humidity). And I didn't like my outfit. It was black. A black suit. My mother said it looked nice and professional. I read that you should wear dark, solid colors to an interview. Only problem was that I didn't own any dark, solid colors - but I do have a lot of pink, red, and purple. So I found a suit, a nice, black suit, to wear for my interview - on a 90 degree day in August. I was going to roast in that nice, black suit - and pantyhose. Who in their right mind invented pantyhose?

I got dressed and ate part of a muffin that Brad brought up for me to eat. Somehow I got out of that room and into the car. Brad drove me to the Capitol Complex. I knew I had to go in Building 7 - where's Building 7? A very polite officer showed me from the car where to go.

Brad pointed and said, "See, it's right there. I'm going to let you out here so I don't have to feed a meter."

"Walk me to the door."

"It's right there. I have on my running shorts (which, side note, are hideously short). You'll be great."

I get out of the car and stand. The door is hanging open, but I knew if closed it he'd be off.

"Walk me to the door."

So Brad, in his runner garb, parked the car, fed the meter, and walked me, in my black suit and Payless heels (that I now have in every color because they are the only heels I can walk in), escorted me to Building 7. It was like crossing the Sahara Desert.

I got to the door. I had to open the door to go through security. This was really going to happen. I felt like all of my surroundings were melting away.

I stood there at the door. I've been to some large cities with skyscrapers, but in that moment that was the tallest, most foreboding structure I'd ever seen in my life. Suddenly, I realized Brad was gone. I head "Good luck," but he was high tailing it across the parking lot before I could respond (smooth move in hindsight).

I had no choice but to go inside, because I wasn't going to stand outside in my hot, black suit for an hour. I felt like I was about to enter an unknown world - and I was, just not in a way that I ever could imagine it.

I'm going to have to finish this story sometime tomorrow. It won't be Wednesday, but it will be worth it.

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