Future Math Teacher meets me in my office after school. She and a partner are cooking dinner for Timmy and me tonight, a project for their Independent Living (once called “Home Economics”) class. From here, we’re going to shop for the evening at both of Kandern’s grocery stores, then home so that they can prepare the feast. I pack my bag and look up at her distractedly, asking how her day was.
“Amazing!” she squeals.
“Why amazing?” With only seven more class days until Christmas, we’re all a bit tired, and mostly feel less than amazing.
“I taught math today!”
“You taught math?”
“Yes!” she says delightedly. “Today was the day.”
“Oh right, your Christmas wish,” I remember, recalling the announcement at Banquet a few weeks ago. Several students wished to teach classes for the day. She’d asked to teach Algebra 2. As we walk to the store, she is still gushing over the day.
“I can’t believe I have to wait five whole years to do that again. I can’t wait!”
That was me. Thirteen years ago.
I always wanted to be a teacher. When we played school, I was at the front of the class by my miniature easel chalkboard, and throughout my home schooled years, from Kindergarten through sixth grade, I would pine over the classrooms that I wasn’t seeing, contenting myself with literary heroes in Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jo March.
I was the high school kid, like Future Math Teacher, who knew what she wanted, and rather resented college for getting in the way. While some English majors enter education as a resigned afterthought, several years after graduating in a less-than-lucrative field, this was always my intention. I wavered–from 2004 to 2008 I lost some of my childhood vocational confidence–but essentially I’m doing, today, what I always wanted to be doing.
A few weeks ago, my colleague, Poetry Teacher, invited me to a reading in her class. The students read their pieces, all designed specifically for spoken word poetry, and then offered us teachers the chance to perform. I read something, humbled by their preparation and my lack of it, and then Poetry Teacher shared her work. A poem about dreams, how some come true at the exact moments that others are set aside. As class ended, we chatted about how teachers seem to always have another dream, even ones that love their work. To travel the world. To write the Great American Novel. To win the Big Race. To live in a forest, making cheese, spinning wool and dispensing wisdom to passersby.
Spoon-fed Disney life lessons from an early age, our generation is obsessed with dreams. Having them, chasing them, seizing and loving them. There is always just one dream, and if you don’t have it–or worse, choose leave it behind–you’re breaking the one rule: Be True To Yourself. As someone with both fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams, I say this is nonsense. Life is long and varied. Some of the dreams I clung to the most fiercely were the ones that I needed to let go of, while God has led me toward goals that I’d never have even imagined. Dreams are just a starting point, a suggestion list.
Now I’m sitting on the couch in living room, listening to Christmas music and the sounds of two high school seniors learning to cook in my kitchen. One minute, they’re arguing about how to use a salad spinner, and the next turning on Christmas music to ease the tension. There are other dreams, of course. But for today, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this one.