Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 years

I've been in education for 11 years.  I remember this because the fall of my first year as an educator was the fall of September 11.  Before that day I still felt like a child.  I felt foolish often in front of my senior English classes-as if I were an impostor and not a teacher.  It was like playing dress-up each day. Only a few short months before I had been a student.  Now I was standing at the board, instructing students a mere five years my junior.  The first literature unit we dove into was Beowulf.  The epic struggle in British Literature between good and evil.  Between a hero and a monster.  How appropriate.

September 11 was the date of the very first exam I gave as a teacher.  I arrived early that day to make sure everything was ready.  Stacks of Beowulf exams were at attention on my front table.  Different ones for each block.  (I may have been a new teacher, but I felt I was wise to the ways of students)  I even had extra pens stacked in neat piles just in case anyone conveniently forgot theirs.  I am positive I was more anxious than my students were.  As the morning wore on, I sat at my table, watching their heads bent in concentration, hoping the knowledge I had imparted stuck in their brains and shone on the essays their pens were scratching on paper. 

Across the hall, the Senior Government teacher was showing a film, so I gave permission to my students to go watch as they completed their exams.  We were down to the final two test-takers when the entire class showed back up at my door.  One of my male students, an entire head taller than me, said "a plane crashed into the twin towers!"  I did not believe him at all.  He was known for trying to pull my leg, and I was not about to let this be an exception.  As I was trying to argue with him our principal came over the PA to explain what happened.  Before I knew it, fingers resting in a dusty chalk tray, I crossed the great divide from green and young teacher to adult shepherding scared teenagers through a national crisis. 

Each year I remember the faces of my Senior English students.  I remember their wide eyes as we listened to the announcements that morning.  I remember huddling around televisions in the classrooms that had them.  I remember fear crackling in the air.  I remember sitting on my hands to hide their shaking.  I remember seeing the same feelings reflected back at me in the eyes of educators 30 years my senior. 

I have been an educator for 11 years.  Passing from classroom to guidance office.  Moving from newbie to veteran.  In these 11 years I have had more students than I can count.  More students than I can possibly remember.  I still have those exams I gave that day in 2001.  That group of seniors will always remain with me.  We all became adults together 12 years ago.  We all remember.