Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Loan

"If I could sit across the porch from God, I'd thank Him for lending me you." -- Flavia

Six of my eight student teachers...ready to fly!

Yesterday was graduation day for the UC Davis School of Education.  76 or so students received their teaching credential from our university.  Eight of them were my students...another 11, I have the joy of getting to teach in a seminar about student teaching with my friend and partner-in-crime, Shelley.

My official job title is Supervisor/Lecturer...really it should be "guide for one of the craziest years of your life".  Like regular classroom teachers, I don't control who will be my student teachers.  It's a big pot and eight are scooped up onto my plate.  

I meet them in August, a few days before school starts.  We sit in a small circle and tell a bit of our story --  where are we from, where they went for undergrad, what they are most interested in educationally, why they want to be a teacher.  Most importantly, they give me their cell phone number -- my link for the late night questions, early morning mishaps and questions they can't ask out loud.  

For the next 10 months, I will be observing them and offering them suggestions for how to get better.  I will see them at their most vulnerable professionally...literally, floundering before my very eyes.  I will have to watch them get through a difficult lesson and help them pick up the pieces afterward.  Many times I will get to see a miracle moment: a student who has been misbehaving will become engaged and excited about what he's learning; the entire class will be in a state of flow -- learning from each other and working together like never before.  Those are the nuggets that shine and hold us captive.  Once you have one of those moments as a teacher, you work hard to recreate it.

In our conversations I watch the beginning teachers struggle with the clash of their dream and the reality.  Most of them have been exceptionally high performing students and it is a shock for them to see how students struggle and the many obstacles so many children face each day just getting to school.   The students who are difficult make their mark on my teachers' hearts.  The eager, excited, funny students do too.  Sometimes my teachers feel defeated and discouraged.  Other days they are on fire and can't stop smiling.

I know they are on loan to me.

I know it is a brief window where I get to have the joy of seeing them each week and I have the front row seat into their lives.  I can't help but think of their parents or families that have lifted them up and allowed them the opportunity of a higher education.  I can't help but admire their perseverance and determination.  This year two of my students were from families that were refugees from Vietnam.  They were from the same big town in California but didn't know each other. I had a student teacher who left college early to help her mother as she was dying of cancer.  I had two from rural California and another from Virginia -- quite a ways from home -- out for a personal adventure to California.  I had one who was an immigrant from Jordan.  Wearing the traditional hijab of her Muslim faith, she entered her elementary school a bit nervous for how the students and teachers might react.  Kids had questions -- like they always do.  But once those were answered and especially once they got to know each other, the walls melted away.  She was their teacher -- the receiver of early morning hugs and pictures of admiration.  It was beautiful to see.

So yesterday was the culmination of a school year like no other -- a metamorphosis for these students teachers into legit teachers. It was a chance to pause and acknowledge how hard they had worked, all that they had accomplished and the amazing profession they have chosen.  They will work from now on to hone their craft and develop their skills.  They will never forget their students from this year -- the messy moments and the fragile ones, the tear-stained cheeks,  and the high fives.  They will always hold close this beginning teacher that they were and they will remember that very first classroom, 
a laboratory of learning.

I had the joy of meeting their families yesterday.  I had the thrill of being in on the celebration -- hugging grandmas and aunties and boyfriends and parents and letting them know what a gift it has been to have this front row seat -- if only for a minute.  

And like dandelion fluff, a deep breath, and in one moment those seeds are scattered.

Those amazing people are on their way -- out into our schools -- working for educational equity, advocating for all students, figuring out why Joey continues to struggle and how to engage Suzy.  They will be giving opportunities and second chances.  They will wonder how to keep going and have moments of deep self doubt.  But they will also watch miraculous changes and witness personal growth and academic gains in their students.  

They have picked no ordinary job.  They have chosen to put themselves out there.  Day after day, they will work tirelessly for students and then have to let them go.  Like parenting, you never really know if you're doing it right.  You hope.  You send up silent prayers.  You let them go.
You savor the loan.  

Today I am grateful for the eight who crossed my path for these past ten months.
I wish them all the best as they begin the hard work and know the joy of teaching.

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