Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever cried in a therapy session. It caught me off guard. One moment I was fine, and the next moment I just burst into tears. The topic was my chosen career field. She wanted to know if I became a teacher because my grades were one of the reasons my parents gave me praise and attention I craved. I lived in a home where love was conditional, and academics was one area I knew I could excel.
But that really isn’t it. My answer is two-fold. One is because I love to learn. I’ve been like that since I was little. My grandfather would bring home school textbooks he found at yard sales, and I would devour them. I had some amazing teachers when I was young who made school interactive and fun. Eventually, our family moved, and my school environment changed immensely. The teachers were more strict and more distant with the students. School was a place where you sat down in a desk, read textbooks, and answer questions. They managed to strip out the fun of learning.
When I became a teacher, I knew what type of classroom environment I wanted to create, and it wasn’t my latter experience in elementary school. Children are naturally curious. They will soak up any information given to them and seek more. But it has to be done in an environment that makes learning exciting and fun, not stiffing and mundane. The goal is to make lifelong learners, students who become adults and never want to stop learning all that they can. I want to create students who love learning the same way I do.
But it’s also for a second reason, which is much more serious, and it’s during this explanation where I suddenly found myself crying. In high school, my home life was complete hell. I slept on my teacher’s couch more often than I slept at home. It was the only place that felt safe, and the only place where I could be a kid.
My parents were going through two child custody battles, and being the oldest, I was put on the stand to testify. I lived with my mother and near her entire family. I vividly remember her telling me that if she lost her kids because of me, she would never have anything to do with me again. The extended family treated my siblings and I horribly. I knew that no matter which way things turned out, I would lose a parent. There is no description for the amount of pain that I was in; I remember wanting to die. I wish they could see the Hell they put us through, but they would still point fingers at the other, or worse yet, blame us.
It was during this time that one of the teachers found out I played violin, and begged me to come play in a group in which she was involved. Years earlier both she and her husband had begun a music program in an inner city school. By the time I joined, those kids were now college students and still playing together. Music became a huge escape, and it still is my escape even now. She is the reason I survived what I did at that age. She is the only reason I managed to get through high school, and she is why I’ve made it as far as I have today. She was the very first person to ever show me what it felt like to be unconditionally loved. There are no words to describe the depths of what that meant to me.
If I EVER have half of that impact on a student the way she had on me, I will feel as if I truly succeeded in life. The thing is, I wasn’t the only person she impacted the way she did. There was an entire group of college students who are now the adults and can attest to the same. I will forever admire her for all the work she has done.