No sooner had I driven home from New Jersey I was packing (and substitute plan writing) once again to make the trek to Charleston one more time. 365 days later, the moment had arrived to light another torch. I had been in such a state of motion (drive, speak, drive, teach, drive, write, repeat) that it wasn't really registering that this was indeed the end.
Until the hail storm. Right around the Buckhannon exit. In the dark. I had managed to drive through every type of weather over the past twelve months, every precipitation imaginable, except hail. I had even bragged the week before about how I at least avoided "that one."
Driving three miles per hour in the pitch black in a hail storm, it hit me like the swollen white pebbles bouncing off the hood of the car. This was it. If I could get through this one last storm, I had made it.
The next morning, I spoke at the state board meeting about my year. Before going in, I walked around the Capitol Complex one more time. What was once so imposing a year ago had become familiar territory. It's where laws are made and voices are meant to be heard - even if those on the receiving end don't like what you have to say.
|I don't like to "selfie," but when I do, it's with the Capitol in the background.|
I spoke about the view I had over my year, comparing it to being at the peak of Spruce Knob. That view included taking in some of the great inequalities that exist across this state. There are good things happening in education in West Virginia, but that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. You can't expect teachers and students to keep doing more with less and less; it's a set up for failure. In an era of high stakes everything in education, those that are directly impacted by changes have the least amount of voice. Some don't get a chance to be heard; others are afraid of the consequences of speaking up. Both need a champion.
|Addressing the state board|
This is random, but I love Ollie's Bargain Warehouse in Hagerstown. No joke, it lives up to it's slogan "Good stuff...CHEAP!" About two-thirds of the store is discounted books - maybe it's not quite two-thirds, but that's the reason I frequent there. It's a fun, fast way to furnish my classroom library.
When I was there this summer, kneeling on the cement floor to pick through a bottom shelf, a thin, errant book slid down from the shelf above. It had a pale, crumpled dust jacket - and a bright orange $1.99 price sticker.
As I pulled it out to remove it from my pursuit of non-fiction, my eyes caught the title.
Courage, by Bernard Waber.
It was a simple picture book, with a few sentences on each page. Nothing fancy. It had obviously been passed over before.
I looked for one without such a grimy cover. No such luck. What am I going to do with such an "un-fifth grader" book anyway? Hmm. Character traits? Analogies? I'll think of something, as I stuck it in my cart. I peeked - thank goodness beneath that embattled dust jacket was a smooth, glossy book.
Three months later, I was shoving items into a bag and tears out of my eyes. I wanted it to be awesome. One last time to address the teachers of West Virginia, and here I am, ready to hit the road to go - and I don't have a speech. Nothing written down at all. Once last time to speak, and in the midst of the crazy that is the beginning of the school year, that one important task kept getting pushed to the side. Now what was I going to do?
Be different, but more importantly, be the difference.
As I reached under the table to unplug my laptop, an odds-and-end pile of random items that hadn't made it to school yet greeted me. Courage was, once again, a part of the misfit mix.
What makes the difference?
So I snapped out of my pity party frenzy. Geesh. What had made the difference, every time, this past year? It was starting right back at me, under the table, with wrinkled eyes, waiting for me to see it.
24 hours later, Courage became a part of my speech. Click here.
|With my coordinator, Monica Beane, and the 2015 WV Teacher of the Year, Gail Adams|
And with that, I officially (and gratefully) attained "has been" status. A year of amazing highs, lows, and tests came to a close. It's an blessing to receive this honor, and an accomplishment to be on the other side of it. Looking back, I don't know how I did it, except...
Courage is what we give to one another.