I was having a relatively good day.
OK, that’s a lie. I woke up at 5:30 because I had to be to work early for a faculty meeting. Any teacher reading this knows that’s a fate worse than death. It’s always the same. An hour of sitting in an uncomfortable theater (for a guy with a fused spine), crossing your legs back and forth, listening to speaker after speaker drone on and on about things that could have been put in an email and ignored.
And for this I get the privilege of waking up 30 minutes earlier. Thank you, most munificent God.
At the end of most faculty meetings at my school a veteran teacher stands up — it’s always the same woman each month as long as I’ve been here — and presents the Faculty of the Month Award.
At this point I am firmly tuned out, scrolling through my Twitter feed looking for videos of kittens climbing out of cardboard boxes and bursting into flames. I find the cuteness to be calming and the incineration bizarre.
Imagine my shock when, after five years of teaching at this place and witnessing dozens of my colleagues receive this award (many of whom have taught here fewer years than I); to hear my name called.
What in the world?
Surely they had that wrong. Clearly they haven’t figured out my game yet. I come here to collect a check.
A friend (fellow teacher and previous award recipient) who also happens to be my trainer was sitting behind me and reached forward to pat me on the back. I sat there motionless, absolutely embarrassed, to hear testimonials from three fellow teachers about some guy they think is wonderful.
Listening to the things they had to say I wondered who they were talking about. Apparently I love my students, am always smiling, and have a popular Twitter feed. I’ll grant them the Twitter feed. I’m pretty good at that.
But why me? Why today?
I instantly felt like crap that I was thinking these things instead of just being thankful to be recognized. I’ll admit, I’m a terrible human being. I should just be grateful and move on. And I am grateful. I just can’t figure it out. I never wanted to teach. In fact there are times when I wonder why God called me to this career. I hate how demeaning the pay is (not at this school, just for teachers in general) and the constant feeling that maybe this is all I can do with my life. That probably stems from my dad. He always repeated the old “maxim” that those who can’t do, teach. I love my job and I do love my students. So why do I feel this way?
Or maybe I was really wondering what took them so long to see it? And of course then I began to feel like a real jerk, pondering about an award I was not owed.
Is this how one is supposed to feel when your colleagues recognize you? I honestly don’t know since it’s never happened before.
What I do know is that just the day before the student council had awarded me a little trinket. It was a plastic red apple on a base that read “Harvey: Best Dressed Teacher”. And I know that that award meant the world to me because it came from my students, the people I actually work with every day.
And I suppose it’s truly nice to be recognized once in a while by adults. I tried explaining to my wife how big a deal this award is. It’s kind of how the school says “thank you, good job”. We don’t get bonuses as teachers; there are no pay raises for good work, just a cost of living adjustment. This is how they tell you you’re doing a good job. I don’t think she bought it.
Here’s what I know. I am most appreciative to whomever wrote those testimonials about me. I was truly shocked. And because it says I’m a good teacher I have to be a good teacher. That means, put the award aside and get back to teaching.
See you first period.