I went to Barnes & Noble today to spend my gift card my parents gave me. I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman in her 70s. She was dressed in an understated cream sweater and brown and gold toned scarf that picked up the highlights in her faded strawberry blonde hair. She had big, light green eyes that held your attention. We recommended books to one another and I learned that she was a retired middle school Music & English teacher. Turns out she also went to my alma mater, Illinois State University (a place well-known for its teaching college).
I mentioned to her that there’s a special place in heaven for middle school teachers as I tried it for 2 years before switching to high school. She laughed and said, “I loved it. The secret is to love them first and foremost and the rest will follow.” I told her I had hit a point in my career where I felt love was hard to give & receive because of all the difficult obstacles, bad behavior, disconnect & political policy we teachers deal with on a daily or weekly basis. I even mentioned that I’m not sure how long I’ll last doing this job. And she put her hand on my arm and said, “Oh, make no mistake. Teaching is a calling similar to being a preacher. It’s not for everyone & at some point your faith will be tested. But don’t you forget: you’re planting seeds, my dear.” She then waved at a toddler whose mother had him in her arms and he smiled at her and blushed.
She turned to me and asked, “Well, what else would you like to do?” I laughed and said, “All I like to do is read & write & talk about that with others & help them learn to go deeper in that realm as well.” Then, in true teacher fashion, she taught me by telling me an anecdote of how her friend resisted being a preacher but then decided to “Give up and Give in” & is now a distinguished lecturer and minister. She winked and said, “Go write your book, but don’t stop planting seeds.” And that’s when I cried in a bookstore and hugged and thanked a teacher.