River Deep: Navigating Through Uncharted Waters with Patience and Dedication
On September 4, 2020, I was shocked and overwhelmed when I learned of my nomination as the 2021 Louisiana Middle School State Teacher of the Year. (You may view a video of this surprise announcement here.) As I reflected on the process that brought me here, so many things come to my mind. The journey to becoming the 2021 Louisiana Middle School State Teacher of the Year has been an awesome one that helped me realize my real purpose in life- helping others. This journey has also made me realize that what most clearly defines me as a teacher is also a source we can draw from during this uncertain time.
Teaching has allowed me to achieve my purpose in life- helping my community, school, and students. In doing so, this has also inspired others around me to do the same. Many think teachers “teach” and do not realize that most teachers are always going above or beyond their job description. Many extraordinary teachers in our state do amazing things inside and outside of the class. I am one of those teachers. Ironically, I didn’t aspire to be a teacher. My mom was an educator for 33 years, and along with seeing her feeling fulfilled, I also witnessed her coming home many days exhausted from her duties as an educator. She would often take an hour nap to rest enough to start her other job as a parent and wife. Seeing this, I said this is not for me! I could never work that hard. It wasn’t until I substituted at a local school that I realized that teaching is my calling. I was born to do it. Education is in my blood, and I could not deny it. Over the past 14 years, I have used my classroom experience and everything I have learned from every school and person I have worked with to mold me into the educator I am today. As an educator, I am helping others, and I am proud to say that my fellow educators are doing the same.
As I reflected on my journey as an educator, I thought about my role as a 6th-grade teacher of Ancient History and the unit I feel most defines me as a teacher. I also thought about the relevance of this unit today. The unit is about Ancient River Valley Civilizations. In this unit, I teach my students about four major civilizations that began along rivers. Early humans gravitated toward rivers because of all the benefits these natural resources provided them. They used the water as a means to irrigate their crops and for transportation. They used mud to build structures like their homes and some temples. By identifying the many essential benefits a river provided, early humans built some of the most magnificent civilizations known to man. Spiritually, rivers symbolize calmness and peace, but they also represent various challenges in life. During these unprecedented and uncertain times brought on by Covid-19 and the recent storms, I find myself thinking deeply about the symbolism of rivers, my faith, and the lessons we can learn from them. Now more than ever, we are all faced with navigating through uncharted waters, and that brings to mind two virtues we learn from water- Patience and Dedication.
Patience! The first factor is patience. We all face situations that try our patience daily: crying kids at home, managing a balance between family life and work, wearing a mask for long periods, and learning how to create engaging lessons for virtual learning. When times are hard, it can be difficult to persevere with a positive attitude. I have learned that patience is one of the best virtues to possess. All stakeholders need an abundance of patience at this critical juncture as we all navigate uncharted waters when handling education during a global pandemic. I often sit at my desk, listening to my inspirational music while designing and creating virtual lessons that are effective, engaging, and meaningful. The songs help to calm me and minister to my soul, but they also allow me to reflect on why I became an educator. Believe me, when I tell you, educators are working harder than ever before. Ensuring our students still receive a high-quality education, having parents learn the different platforms used, and having the rest of the community buy into our new way of educating students is a challenge. Patience will guide us through these difficult times and enable us to have compassion for each other. Patience is like a prayer for which you have been waiting for an answer. God’s timing is always the best in every situation. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.” Although the task at hand may be challenging, I know that we all will come out stronger than before the pandemic. Patience will get us through.
Dedication! Another virtue we learn from rivers that are essential to this school year is dedication. Vince Lombardi, the famous head coach of the Green Bay Packers who led his team to three NFL championships, is known as a national symbol for having a determination to win. He states, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” We are all currently living in uncertain and challenging times, such as staying healthy, adjusting to a new way of educating our students, and managing the economic devastation this pandemic has caused. We must remain dedicated to the cause of educating our students. At present, educators are redoubling efforts due to their dedication to the students and community they serve. Even when we want to give up, we reflect on our presence in students’ lives. If they see us persevere, then they will do the same. I often consider the Egyptians and the great pyramids. Their hard work and determination in building a structure by hand and putting it together using their backs is something remarkable and unimaginable. Four thousand five hundred years ago, the pyramids were erected in Egypt, and they are still standing. People still marvel at the grand structures. Years from now, all of the hard work and dedication educators and students put into virtual learning will be discussed in school districts and classrooms across the globe like those ancient feats. Future stakeholders will be surprised by how unimaginably and remarkably resilient educators and students were during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our dedication to our students, school, and community is currently being praised and acknowledged. Ironically, in many ways, it took a global pandemic for the world to see how dedicated educators are to their profession, students, school, and community. We are dedicated, and we will persevere.
We face unprecedented and uncertain times, but let us all not forget that students are the ones most affected by everything that is going on despite all of our challenges. Let us also not forget that an educators’ key role is essential and beneficial; now and always. My recent reflections have made me realize the relevance of our work as educators and ponder on the virtues we can learn from water. Patience and dedication are most needed right now, and I’m proud to stand amongst educators who are practicing these virtues. Thank you to my colleagues. Let us remember the influence and impact we will have on students are immeasurable. When Ancient River Valley civilizations were constructing their communities near rivers, they only knew why it would benefit them to move there. They did not realize the lasting influences they would have on present-day infrastructure, language, education, and culture. They realized faith always wins over fear. As we navigate during these difficult times, the decisions we make will impact the way education is seen and implemented in the future. Let us keep relying on our faith, patience, and dedication to help build a legacy for all stakeholders in education, one virtual lesson at a time. Remember, our impact will run deeper than any river, and our achievements will be marveled for centuries to come.