“Nope. You don’t get a sash, a tiara, and a title and then get to put them on the shelf. There’s dust up there.” That was my answer to one of my sweet former students who always finds a way to come and visit me on my conference period as she is dashing off to her next class. What she normally finds is that I’m doing several things at once—typing an email, being interviewed by a student who has some project, while stopping every other question to answer a student who dropped by to ask me a question about his thesis, while sneaking bites of a donut or cereal bar. (My stomach scares the kids in third period if I don’t.)
“Winning teacher of the year didn’t give you a break of any kind?” That was the question she’d asked. On the contrary, it is another job. Another job that will and has already made me push my multitasking skills to the limit. But, I don’t believe in dusty titles. That’s what I told them in Austin. Good teachers never get to do one task at a time anyway. We are the kings and queens of multitasking. What I’ve learned since my last blog post is that THIS is multitasking gone wild! Speaking of the first post…WOW! I expected maybe 100 people to read what I had to say. So far it has been read over 11 times that. Thank you!
After that post, some of you asked if I would explain in the next post what the process is to get here. Here it is: First, you are named teacher of the year for your campus. You write eight essays that focus on a variety of things—philosophy, practices, service, message. The district selects a district teacher of the year from those. You move to the regional level, (same essays) and you must win there against 47 districts. For winning regional, you advance to state. The state has 40 applications from the 20 regions in Texas. The state whittles that down to six finalists—three elementary and three secondary. The six go to Austin to interview with a panel of education officials across the state. Fourteen questions in forty-five minutes. You wait a month. (You get stressed and doubt your answers.) Then, the state chooses an elementary state teacher of the year and a secondary state teacher of the year. One is chosen to be Texas teacher of the year and moves on to the national level. You get some prizes. You get a technology package for your classroom. And did I mention that you go a little crazy? Life gets crazy in good ways after that. (side note—The English teacher in me hates the second person “you,” but I’m trying to make it personal. YOU can do this too!)
What I’ve been doing is preparing. I’m studying and reading about the many facets of public education in the state. And while there is good crazy, there is also bad crazy. (Remember I said I’d be honest?) The pressure is enormous. I work for, speak for, and fight the good fight for 330,000, many of whom will never know me. I have to hang up my words and thoughts like clothes on a rack and pick the right ones that suit that occasion and that purpose. I have to be sure my students are number one. I want to take you with me and maintain transparency throughout the process. I have to deal with the fatigue. I bought some vitamins though, and I’m learning to say NO even to family. I am grateful for it all. Let’s see, media training in Coppell, TX was earlier this month. I’m grateful for the opportunity to equip myself with the tools I’ll need in 2014. I am on the cover of Advocate Magazine’s winter edition. I have written an article for Insight Magazine. Well, it’s not on paper yet, but it’s all in the brain. Amy Frierson and I were honored by Region 8 at the fall banquet. I will speak to the forty-seven superintendents from Region 8 in early December. I need to figure out what to say. I have also teamed up with Jeremy Wagner 2013 Texas Teacher of the Year and Jillian Howard 2014 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year to start improving the Texas Teacher of the Year Program and education in general. They are both great. I will share some of our ideas as they come to life. We will have a conference call with Commissioner Michael Williams in December. We’re thankful that he carved out time for us. Jeremy worked his magic to set that up. I also have some great things on the horizon for January. Stay tuned, please.
As we rush towards Thanksgiving break, I have much to confess and much to be thankful for. I woke up this morning with sore shoulders and reached for the heating pad. (Somebody will be thirty-nine soon.) Symbolically, I thought about all that I carry on these skinny shoulders. (even before this honor) I have a habit of trying to take care of everything myself. No one should help me carry my load. No, I am fine. I don’t need anybody to do that. And then…Jillian called me on it. “Monica Washington! You have to learn to let people bless you. When you don’t allow people to bless you, you do know that’s rooted in pride, right?” Busted! I’m thankful for the talents God has bestowed upon me, and my mission is to bless others in deeds, words, and smiles. Yet, I often reject blessings in return, or I look for a way to give a payback blessing. Sometimes I need to be thankful, shut up, and take the blessings. Thanks, Jill! I am so thankful for my new friends.
I’m thankful for the friends and family and all of you who see my crazy scrambles behind the curtain of life, and then you watch me walk out there and you whisper to the people around you, “She is so together,” although you just witnessed my mad scramble.
I’m thankful for my STEM principal Cathy Klopper who checks on me often to see what I need. I usually say, “I’m good.” However, yesterday in my attempt to accept blessings, I asked for a favor, and she obliged. I’m thankful for my Texarkana College department chair, Mary Young, who didn’t kick me to the curb due to my crazy schedule. I’m thankful for my THS English friends who send me energy bars, make me laugh, and offer to do things for me and with me. I’m thankful for Ricky for putting up with me. I’ve put a lot on his shoulders, but he continues to ask for more.
So in a nutshell, here is what I’ve learned since last month—be prepared, but don’t kill yourself in the process. Be a blessing, but don’t get so wrapped up in pride that you can’t accept any in return. Yes, I’m still behind. My to do list haunts me, but one day, I’ll feel on top of things. Until then, it’s ok. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Be a blessing to others in some way, but open your arms to receive those blessings that have your name carved all over them.
I’ll meet you here next month. Until then, stay orange, or blue (Region 8), or red, white, and blue. Those are the only colors to be.