While I find powerful and useful nuggets of wisdom in each of Coach Floyd's blog posts, this week's entry spoke to me. The post entitled "Larger Than Life" describes an encounter between Coach Floyd and some of his 8th grade football players at the end of the year. I urge you to read the entire post because Coach Floyd writes an amazing blog. The central idea of the post is the growth of students and the lasting impact that we, as teachers and coaches, can have on our students. In a bit of coincidental timing, I read the post after loading my doctoral hood and gown into my car for baccalaureate mass. At my school, faculty wear their caps, gowns, and hoods to graduation.
Coach Floyd's post spoke to me so powerfully today because this year marks the 10 year anniversary of earning my juris doctorate. While I can't recall the exact date, I graduated from law school in May of 2004. Roughly 10 years ago, I walked across the stage at the University of Missouri-Columbia, received my juris doctorate, and was ABSOLUTELY sure I knew where I would be 10 years from later. As often happens , my "plan" and God's plan didn't quite line up! Instead of being a litigation partner at a law firm in St. Louis, I teach science and coach football at an all-boys, private, Catholic high school. And I couldn't be more blessed, more happy, or more fulfilled!
5 years ago, the law firm I worked for laid me off. At the time, this act devastated me. In hindsight, that was the single greatest gift I could have ever received. While I was extremely unhappy as a lawyer, I would not have had the courage to leave the practice. Coach Floyd's post speaks about growth and the impact educators have on that growth. The reason I am so blessed, happy, and fulfilled is that I get the honor of building relationships and teaching young people on a daily basis! One of the worst moments of my life led me to find the thing that brings me the most fulfillment.
Over the course of the last 5 years as an educator and coach, I have witnessed some incredible highs (being asked by a student to be his godfather) and some difficult lows (burying a player who was murdered.) Each of these acts, and every one in between, reminds me of the the awesome opportunity we educators have to impact the lives of young people. We must take care to make sure that we use these opportunities for positive growth. That's not always easy. As a matter of fact, it is pretty difficult at times. Being a great educator (and I do include coaches in that term) requires self-sacrifice, hard-work, discipline, and long hours. It requires us to expect and understand the mistakes that students make as part of the natural growth process. It requires patience to help students overcome (some times multiple times) those mistakes in an effort to grow as a person. It requires a powerfully positive attitude in order to foster hope and optimism in our students when they struggle with the pressure and expectations of life. It requires compassion and empathy for the individual situations of each of the numerous students we interact with as well as the knowledge of how to make a meaningful connection in light of those situations.
With all the demands, stress, and time constraints, the question that begs to be asked is "why teach?" For me, the answer is quite simple,
I feel compelled and passionate about helping young people develop and grow into the adults our world needs.
The day I entered education was one of the best days of my life. While I did not end up where I originally aimed, I am blessed to be an educator and coach. The ironic part is that I became an educator to impact the lives of my students but they have had a far greater impact on me. As Coach Floyd said in his blog, "Being a teacher and coach is an awesome career...with awesome responsibility!" Powerfully simple but simply powerful!