I spent the last two years teaching high school and the year before that, I taught middle school. Teaching is not something I EVER thought I’d do. Ever. But, I am very glad life led me through those years.
I have learned much more than I ever thought I’d learn from one job. I have learned a lot about relating to people, finding patience when you don’t have any, and organization. I have learned a whole lot about parenting do’s and don’t’s….although hard to put into practice when one is not yet a parent.
Overall, teaching has been a humbling experience and one that has kept me on my toes as long as I was applying myself. I had many colleagues that just showed up, ran off some copies of worksheets everyday, and handed them out to their students to use the entire 90 minutes class period to finish. And it happens all the time in our ridiculously lame public education system. I also had many colleagues that spent a great deal of time preparing for their students every day and were amazing leaders, mentors, and teachers. In the beginning, I was naïve and assumed most people who went to school to be educators actually gave a shit about what they were doing on a daily basis. I suppose burn-out is to blame as well ….
Needless to say, I really tried to apply myself almost every day. Everybody has those days when they are too tired to give 100% but for the most part, I gave it my best. And once you get in the groove of giving 100% to those kids, you really notice it when you don’t. And the kids notice it as well. They pick up on so much more than I ever thought they would. They challenged me. Every day.
I had a student in my Honors class the first semester I taught high school who also rode horses. She competed quite a bit and was selected to ride in the Dressage Nationals her senior year. She invited me to her graduation party, and then her father invited me to the Nationals with them in New Jersey. I was floored that they were so welcoming and inclusive. So, I bought a one-way train ticket the next day and went up to the Garden State!
I learned that weekend that my student is a very talented rider with amazing focus for her age. I already knew that about her as a student – she settled for nothing less than straight A’s in her academics and the college scholarships were already rolling in. Her horse was a big bay Warmblood called ‘Landsmann’, a real gentle giant. They ended up placing 5th or 6th overall for the 3-day show. Pretty great for an 18 year old at Nationals as she was riding against adults that had qualified for the Olympics before! I had a ball and got to see the prettier part of New Jersey…the part nobody knows exists. It reminded me a lot of the beautiful horse country in Virginia.
After that weekend, I rode back to North Carolina with Rachel’s trainer and family in the truck while Rachel hopped in a big rig hauling six horses (one being her own) up to Illinois for a year to do a working-student internship at a big dressage show barn up there. She decided to post-pone beginning college until after this year of experience in the show world. So, we said our goodbyes, got in our respective trucks, and they drove north while we drove south.
Rachel came home just this past September, right after Labor Day weekend, from her year up in Illinois. We corresponded a little bit via email while she was up there although she had little time as she was extremely busy. We got back in touch a few weeks ago and ended up meeting for lunch this past week to catch up and what fun that was!
I realized how the blessings of teaching go far beyond the classroom. It was such a joy to see her again and hear about her adventures up north, all the life experience she gained while she was there working, how her new college classes are going, how her parents are doing, where she is thinking of transferring to after this college semester is over, how she wants to continue her riding career and someday be a trainer, etc, etc. She seemed to truly enjoy hearing the update on my life and where my journey is leading me next. She is just one of those ‘kids’ destined to succeed and be something great and it’s a wonderful feeling to know you got to be a part of that, even if it was a small, tiny part.
I can’t wait to see what she becomes… and it makes all those hours of hard work worth it.