Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sappy. Sentimental. Surreal.

My last graded assignment for grad class.
The rose my professor gave me on the podium in the Lally Forum at the College of Saint Rose.
Well, after a long journey, my grad classes finally came to a close this evening. I don't know if it's even really sunk in yet. I am almost officially a certified Literacy Specialist for grades 5-12, and I almost officially have a 4.0 in my program. My professor is amazing, and she was sensitive to the anti-climatic nature of us finishing off the course with presentations and just going on our way until the graduation ceremony in May--so she bought us all roses. A classy and fitting token to acknowledge our completion of a program at the College of Saint Rose.
It's bittersweet of course, because I'd like to celebrate my degree by putting it to good use in a classroom full of students ready to absorb my newly gained knowledge, my passion, enthusiasm, and creativity--but teaching jobs where I live in upstate NY are far and few between. To be honest, I've spent most of the last year questioning whether or not I need to choose a different career (although, if not a teacher, I have no clue what else I'd be). I'm worried that if I can even manage to bite and claw my way into a school somehow that I will be chewed up and spit back out trying to manage a sea of politics and negativity with little support or resources. I'm worried about what education has become, and that I'm not prepared for what I will need to become in order to survive it.
And yet, after over a year of feeling this way, I volunteered in a friend's 5th grade class today to help with a holiday project and I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I worked with some of her students last year as a TA, but stepping into a classroom for the first time this school year, and on the very same day I completed my grad program, I felt alive again. I felt like that was where I was supposed to be. I felt like those students looked to me for a hug, to answer a question, to give them a moment of positive attention--and in those moments, I felt I mattered--like I could make them smile or laugh, make them feel good about themselves, and make their day--and of course by doing so, they make mine!
With my rose-colored glasses on, that's what I feel teaching should be about: helping the students become better, more well-rounded people so that they can not just function in society, but contribute to it--helping them to develop a passion for learning and a zeal for knowledge and exploration--and helping them to develop compassion, creativity, and a positive sense of self.
My heart aches as I write this, because I have worked so long and so hard (and spent so much money) on my own education, so that I can have this opportunity to work with students, and it feels like my day will never come. So while it may seem that I should be celebrating my accomplishments--they may not have sunk in because the real celebration can happen only when my career begins with a teaching job and a classroom of my own.

I usually utilize this blog as a place to showcase my creative endeavors, but tonight it needed to be a journal. I needed to tell the world that passionate and qualified teachers are being forced to sit on the sidelines because of cuts to education. I'm wasting my degree by working in retail, and those students are in class sizes of 27--and worst of all, I feel powerless to do anything about it. I could vent about bureaucracy, and I could certainly continue to feel bitter, cynical, jaded, and defeated...but tonight driving home from my final grad class and thinking back on today in that classroom--I have a spark of hope left in me after all. Maybe it was rose, but I'm betting it was the hugs.

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