The adoption is complete. It’s a girl! She doesn’t weigh that much, but she has learned that power doesn’t come through physical stature. It comes through heart, through grit, through smiles, through sacrifice. In the past several months, I’ve had to take pause, put my hand on my little bit of hip, and ask, “How did I get here?”
Adopted—by Texarkana, TX, by Texarkana Independent School District, by Texas High School, by friends who would stand by me through the crazy days of life, who would cheer the loudest and the longest in my times of triumph. Adopted—and loving it.
Here I am. Welcome to Orange All Over. This is my blog to share things with you, to take you with me on my journey in 2014 as Texas Teacher of the Year.
Before we travel, I have to first let you in on some truths that many of you may not know. I didn’t want to be adopted. I was fine—FINE, I tell you, right where I was. I was home. In Memphis. My students loved me, and well, I was home. But we came anyway. It was hard initially. The students thought I was crazy. “Who is this woman trying to make us write so much in our AVID class? Ship her back to Tennessee!” There was a death in the family—on my birthday. Our two yellow labs who were well trained and beautiful, who we used to hook to my husband Ricky’s wheelchair to pull him (at a high rate of speed, mind you) through our neighborhood while I biked furiously beside them, were struck by the same car at the same time and died. There was Ricky’s major surgery. A totaled car. A house I didn’t like. I just didn’t belong here. But we stayed. I needed Ricky to give me weekly pep talks at first.
“Give it time. We aren’t quitters. The students will come around. You’ll love it here. Just wait.”
And then, after a span of adjustment, of just staying true to myself so people would gradually get to know me, of working so hard that students and parents would see that my motives were pure, that I was a trusted partner in this thing called education, after I had so much wacky fun with my students that they laughed at me, and I laughed at myself, and they grew and learned, and I learned and grew, I heard this:
“And the secondary teacher of the year and the teacher who will represent Texas in the national competition—Monica Washington.”
And as I stood on the stage and gave whatever speech that was—(well, it was from the heart because Mark Schroeder told me to just speak from the heart, so I gave it a shot. I crumbled up the speech and talked about how we were all worthy of that honor. I pointed out my bird legs and spoke of red dresses and asked the audience to chant with me)—yes, when I was giving that speech, my phone was on the table buzzing. It was a group students who already knew that I won—that fast! Ten minutes later, I had 150 new emails from my adopted family—community, district, parents, school. You said you loved me. You were proud of me. You said you were glad that I was yours. So, I answered each of you over the next week.
I can’t even begin to explain how great it has been. I came back to a purple welcome thanks to my English teacher friends, Brittny, Michele, and Ryan. (Purple is my favorite color.) They decked my room out! We had Monica Washington, purple out, day. Administration and students and even some teachers from other campuses participated. It was a sea of purple. I got flowers and fruit. I got to do a radio show. Thanks, Derrick McGary. I was recognized by local papers and media. I was honored by Mayor Bob Bruggeman. I got to be an honorary captain at the Texas High football game. I interviewed with a representative from TSTA (Texas State Teachers Association)/NEA so that they can feature me in the journal. I was fitted for my very own 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year class ring. I couldn’t afford a class ring in high school; this one will be special. Thanks, Mr. Norton! I got a t-shirt that highlights my core teaching philosophy right on the front of it. Thanks, Stephanie. I got so much love from my students.
And so, yes, I am yours, and I am taking you with me. Everywhere I go, I will be tying an orange ribbon in your honor. The White House, Space Camp, everywhere. Hence, the title of this blog. I am Orange All Over, and I am taking Orange (YOU) all over. I will never say that I am better than anyone, only that someone thought I was fit to be a representative of all that is great about you. I plan to represent you well and show you what I am doing. It will be fun. It will be tiring. You can count on my honesty. Let me practice it now. Ok, so I broke my glass trophy before I even left the building that day in Austin! I can be clumsy. However, TASA was nice enough to order me a new one. It arrived yesterday. J
This first blog post is to say thank you and to ask you to travel with me. It is to remind you that when we push ourselves past our comfort zones, we can redefine our personal greatness. And now, I close to go grade some essays. I could go on. You know how those English teachers can be.
Thank you for adopting me. Stay ORANGE! It’s the only color to be.