I am so thankful for coffee.
You know, it’s truly incredible how many things can happen over the course of one year. What can transpire in twelve months? Fifty-two weeks? Three hundred sixty-five days? (or is it 366, since it’s a leap year this year?)
I taught one hundred forty-seven high school students last year. Launched a photo club. Attended endless faculty meetings, RtI meetings, secondary art curriculum meetings, department meetings, PLCs. Watched our Varsity soccer girls climb their way to the state championships, took tickets at every home football game, even though we didn’t win a single one, took casual Friday way too seriously, break ups and awkward first dates and trying to figure out what woman I want to be. I’ll tell you something: those kids helped me figure it out in three months. A year with them taught me more about myself as a human being (and what kind of human I actually am versus the one I wish I could be) than the whole twenty-three I have spent on my own trying to figure it out. I watched my first set of seniors walk across a stage in May, elegant in their caps and gowns, and cried (but when don’t I cry? I ALWAYS cry). They make the impossible totally and completely possible, and the days I absolutely hated myself, they loved me. They loved me so hard and so well and so truly. They spoke to me with honesty: “Mockett, you look like shit today.” “Whatever boy is giving you a hard time, stop thinking about him. If he doesn’t call you, he doesn’t deserve to even look at you.” “You look tired. Is everything okay?” “Is this what happens to all first year teachers? They come in so excited and eager to be great, and then they get tired and discouraged and they suck, like every other teacher?” “You are our generation’s savior.” “Stay wild, Mockett; we love you.”
Was it scary? Oh good God, there are no words. Being in charge of that many humans is already enough responsibility. But being a grown woman, a role model, an authoritarian and disciplinarian, the one with the knowledge and the skills, young and fearless and so damn tired? THAT, my dear friends, is terrifying. And so empowering.
This year has taught me more than how to teach. It’s taught me how to love. And I don’t mean Disney princess, hearts-for-eyes-emoji love. I mean big love; I mean you-make-me-crazy, I-don’t-know-anything-about-your-life, I-have-to-learn-to-not-judge, why-does-he-want-baking-soda, do-people-still-say-that, your-mother-doesn’t-feed-you, you’re-allowed-to-sleep-in-class-because-you’re-paying-your-family’s-rent, colorblind love. They humbled me, brought me to my knees and made me re-evaluate my life, my priorities, my ideals. Some of them were a nightmare. There is no skirting around it. They were mean and hard and cruel and cold; they were unloved, unappreciated and misunderstood. I learned to love them, too. Without reciprocation or expectation. That is the kind of woman I have become. That is the woman I always want to be.
Now. Don’t be fooled. I still have so much work left to do. I have many flaws that need attention, skills that need to be sharpened, a teacher voice that needs to be properly channeled and consistent. But overall, I love them all. I have, I do, and I will, because that is the one thing in my life I know I can be good at. This is what I am good at.
I did a crap job of documenting my first year. I think the most important things to remember are that I made it out alive, and I am going back for more. My goal is to give this page and my life a little love and attention twice a week this year. I want to be a resource to first-year teachers everywhere, but also to people who just need something good and wholesome and light in their lives. I want to be good juju, and I want everyone to love my kids the way I do.
I’ll part with a photograph and my year two schedule. Monday’s up. Bring it on. (And bring on the coffee.)
FIRST: Visual Arts/Intro
SECOND: Visual Arts/Intro
THIRD: Adv. Sculpture and Ceramics
FOURTH: Visual Arts/Intro
FIFTH: AP Art History
SEVENTH: Visual Arts II/Mixed Media
Also, please, if you’ve got time to kill, head over to our Photo Club Tumblr and take a look at my incredible and insanely talented artists’ works. They put me to shame.
Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there. – Cheryl Strayed