I feel like someone needs to pinch me. Do I really get to be the kind of teacher I have always wanted to be? The kind of teacher who nurtures and encourages her young charges? The type who shows kindness and sets an example? Who educates the whole child? Do I really get to go to work in an atmosphere that I created? Where there is no tension? No negativity?
Is it true?
I have always seen teaching as a privilege. An honor. A vocation. To me, it is an opportunity to be a cog in the wheel of a community. To be a calming influence, an encouraging voice, a beacon of light. A nonjudgmental role model. Because in life, we are all learning. We are learning how to be good citizens, good workers, good siblings and neighbors and friends.
The unlikeliest of schools is where I learned that my vision of teaching as humble and patient partner to parents of our students is legitimate and relevant. My role model was the extraordinary principal of St. Andrew Academy in Bridgeport, Maria O’Neill. After becoming somewhat disillusioned with the business of education, Maria showed me that what I knew in my gut all my life was true: Teaching can be a joyous and fulfilling profession. She reaffirmed my instinct that teaching is about more than testing and grading and conforming. Maria believed in her teachers and supported them in their ideas and endeavors. She was my most important cheerleader. (Besides my husband and kids.) It is Maria who gave me the confidence to start my own preschool. She helped me to see that what some might call my weaknesses, are indeed, strengths. That patience and dogged determination on behalf of each child is worthwhile. Educating the whole child is what teaching is all about. It’s what we need more of in the world.
So, thank you Maria O’Neill. Your positive influence in the world is felt far and wide.