I was a horrible teacher my first year. And maybe even my second year too. To all my 2007-2008 students; bless your hearts. I didn’t know what I was doing, how I should be doing it, or why whatever I was or was not doing even mattered. (Remember, I had a publication degree, not an education degree). But somewhere around year three, I found my rhythm. I figured out for myself that I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. Their classroom management style was not my management style. Their instructional strategies were not my strategies. Their relationships with students was really not the way I formed relationships with my students. I’m also pretty sure that you could write a book using my ten-year career as an example of what not to do when in comes to public education, I mean I gave out my phone number to my yearbook staff and this was 2007, not trendy 2017.
But like I said, somewhere around 2009, something profound changed my teaching, how I interacted with my students, and my life. Her name was Katie and as a high school senior, she was pretty much doing life on her own. I’m not going to go into details about Katie’s life. That’s her business. But on December 4th, 2009 Katie took a risk and walked through my front door. With two bursting-at-the-seems suitcases and one Yamaha piano, she chose to make us her family. This kid, who never wanted to be touched, much less hugged, had just unknowingly joined the most hipster, over-sharing, all-in-each-other’s-business-but-we-do-it-with-love family.
With what was promised as a five month respite for Katie before moving off to college on her own the following June, turned into almost five years of this petite brunette as a permanent fixture in our family. At every function. With her own Christmas stocking. Hugs required.
At just twenty-five years old, Katie taught me the greatest lesson of my life. A lesson that regardless if you’re a teacher or not, is transformative and I would like to share this little golden nugget with you. Are you ready for it? It’s short, simple, and easy to remember (Yep, I’m quoting Captain Jack Sparrow again). But here it is.
Talk about a #flashbackfriday. Having just graduated with my Master’s Degree, this photo is exactly eight years old. Still newlyweds in my book with only two years of marriage life under our belts, the education had truly just begun. Now ten years of “schooling” completed, we were scheduled for a quick and oh-so-needed getaway but unfortunately life, or rather Heaven intervened.
This morning at 4am, Jason’s great uncle, the father figure to his mother for most of her life went home to be with our Savior. At 95, Great Uncle Marion was happily married to the love of his life, Mrs. Ruth, who passed away before we were engaged in 2004. Their marriage spanned over SIX decades. Sixty-four years to be exact. Every time we would visit his home in downtown Decatur, he would hold my hand then look directly at Jason and tell him to cherish me. His warmth and aphorisms remind me a lot of Morrie Schwartz (if you don’t know who this is, pause and order Tuesdays with Morrie . . . like, right now).
Before the passing of endearing Uncle Marion, Jason and I still continued our conversation from last week. We have kept this ongoing text conversation about not only what I have learned in my ten years of marriage but what Jason has learned as a lawfully wedded husband. And in true Jason fashion, his perspective is a mix of satirical, poignant, and heartwarming lessons. So, keeping it short and sweet (just like my husband himself), here’s Jason top 10 lessons from the past ten years (with of course, my own bit of commentary).
1. Women can’t drive.
Jason says I’m too slow. Too sassy. Too swerve-y. But, I really am a good driver just clearly a lot slower than the Whites, who are all notorious for their lead feet. And yes, I have been known to swerve, but only if I’m sleepy. So babe, don’t carb overload me then ask me to drive all the way home from dinner and a movie in Buford. Deal? You drive.
2. Sleepy people can still yell at you, in fact, they are probably more likely to yell at you.
So clearly there is a theme here. Yes, I “sleep yell” at Jason, not sure if that is a phrase but I just made it one. The barking dogs, the explosions occurring on the surround sound that make me feel like I’m living in apocalyptic times, all these things are contributing factors. No worries. You know I never mean it. I don’t even remember it.
3. You can go your whole life and never see the end of a movie.
Jason, we get it. I like to sleep! BUT, I also like to get up early, Like 4:00, 4:30 early. So I have plenty of time to sip my morning coffee and finish whatever movie you watched the night before. See, it’s a balance.
4. Hair is a big deal.
No explanation needed.
5. Remotes can out smart even the smartest of people.
Well, when you have six machines all connected to one TV, do you blame me?! I mean, Blue Ray, DVR, Satellite, X-Box, Regular DVD player, Surround Sounds. Sometimes it’s just easier and a time saver if you just walk me through it one more time.
6. Some people will never master the art of putting toilet paper on the roller.
In defense of all women, statistically, we will always use more toilet paper than men. I might underestimate the amount left but you know it makes you feel useful to keep restocking the supply. So, you’re welcome babe. I never want you to feel unappreciated or unneeded.
7. Female to male ratio for bathroom magazines: 70 to 1.
I’m a reader! Nuff said.
8. Blankets are required no matter the house or outside temperature.
For years I’ve been saying that my need to blanket, or butt tuck as Jason calls it, comes from mom swaddling too tightly but who knows if that’s true or not. I just love the security of a blanket, and I have thin skin (undiagnosed of course) so I need the extra warmth. Neither Jason nor I are snugglers so my blankets are merely practical.
9. Pajamas are an outfit.
In recent years I have become a fan of matching pjs. If that’s my biggest vice, then we’re good!
10. You can marry your best friend.
STOP! Now I’m going to cry. Combined with the passing of Uncle Marion, the last day of school, AND my uncontrollable love for my husband, it’s almost too much! But it’s so true! I truly feel that is the secret to our wedded bliss. We not only love each other but respect each other. He makes me better and I have a feeling that I make him better too.
With just one week left in the school year, I am preparing my heart for, you know, all the things. This last graduation will be emotional times ten. I truly feel like a senior getting ready to graduate. I’m anxious! I’m excited! I’m scared! So do me a favor, friend. Check back in on me next week for this teacher’s final lesson.
Blind dates seem to be a thing in my family. My mom and dad met on a blind date in October 1978. He was a local boy, firefighter/ EMT; she was a nurse moved north after graduating from Georgia Baptist. My aunt and uncle met on a blind date on May 8th, 1976. I know this date with a certainty because 8 years later, I was born. My South Georgia grandfather began courting my California-by-way-of-West-Virginia grandmother from a blind date. Even my brother met his wife Emily on a blind date, set up by her own brother. But in 2001 when I was asked to go on a triple blind date with a college freshman from Banks County, I didn’t think this chance encounter would lead to anything significant.
You see in high school, I wasn’t very datable. I wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented, or the most athletic. I was ridiculously average at best. True, I had a really awesome core group of friends but for the most part, we were all average, often overlooked.
In 8th grade, I thought I had blossomed. I had cool friends. We did cool things such as Skate Country every Friday night (I still never learned to backwards skate) but that didn’t last long. I was not good at keeping friends. Easily influenced, tricked, and used as a scapegoat, I quickly realized that being one of the cool kids was just not in the cards for me. I had my first true crush in 8th grade. He gave me his band pin! (Apparently, pins were still a thing). He was smart, good looking, and athletic. His friends quickly helped him see the error of his ways and we took the summer before high school to “meet new people.” He is now a professional CrossFitter with a beautiful wife and family and works for the Harvard Business School . . . No joke! (I’m not a stalker, we’re Facebook friends!) But clearly, we took different paths!
By my junior year, I caught another fella’s eyes. He was Bad News Bears all the way around; attentive but arrogant, hardworking but lacked ambition and direction, charming but deceptive. By the end of my junior year that relationship ended just as traumatic as it started. Praise be! That young man was clearly not husband material (let’s just leave it at that).
So by the time I was a senior in high school I was already pretty jaded regarding relationships. I’ve always been surrounded by amazing marital role models. No matter how upset my parents could get at us or each other, they were always unified. My dad could make my mom crack a smile even in the midst of the most serious scolding (him or me). But like any dramatic high school senior, I thought that love was just an illusion, something that someone so very average like me would have to settle for.
But in walked Jason White. Well, not literally. His friend Robert did though, through the doors at Sears. I was working my first job. There I made a great new friend, Morgan. She was a senior at the city high school and was someone to be envied. She could talk so easily to customers and even easier to boys. She was beautiful and bubbly and clearly not average. She caught Robert’s eye and somewhere down the road a triple blind date was formed; two girls from Gainesville, one from Oakwood, with three boys from Banks County.
We agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Gainesville mall. Not sure what time but the sun was still high in the sky when a new custom Pontiac Firebird with the T-tops out pulled up. It was blaring Nelly’s 2000 album, Country Grammar and I thought to myself, these guys can’t possibly be sons of farmers. Well, I was a third right. Only knowing what Robert looked like, I saw the other two guys hunkered down real cool and thought, no thanks (sorry, friends!). I resigned myself to just having a good time with my girlfriends because love was already off the table. We followed the typical Friday-night-in-Gainesville-early-2000’s-protocol and ate at Applebee’s before heading back to the Gainesville Mall theater. We saw Joy Ride. One hour and thirty-seven minutes of newcomer Paul Walker and 2000’s star LeeLee Sobieski, running for their lives from a psychotic Mack truck driver. Not my cup of tea but I sat there with my friends, enjoying my Coke icee just the same. And that was it. The triple blind date came to an end with the only real romantic spark between the already talking couple; Mogan and Robert.
I didn’t think twice about the other two guys and I’m assumed they didn’t think twice about me. But several weeks later I received a phone call from an unknown number on my cell. “Hello,” I answered. “Hey, this is Jason,” a young man on the other line responded. “Jason, my cousin Jason?” I asked puzzled. “No. Jason that you went on a date with a few weeks back” he responded. “Jason, Jason,” I thought to myself probably for longer than I was supposed to. Before I could respond he continued, “I guess you go on a lot a dates with a lot of Jasons. (Right there his sarcasm got me). He continued, “But I wanted to take you out on another if you would let me.” After explaining that he was given my number from Morgan when they bumped into each other on her date night with Robert, Jason was given the go ahead that I was expecting his call. Yeah, Morgan forgot that little detail of telling me that. Oh well, the following weekend we were all back out to our dinner and a movie routine which we carried on for months. Usually at least two or three couples were in the mix but we kept the routine steady for Friday nights. Jason and I didn’t date just the two of us. After all, he hadn’t met my dad, it was hunting season of course so his weekends were booked. But we talked and texted and became great friends.
Well as the story goes, he quickly won my heart with his honesty, loyalty, and ridiculously witty humor. To this day, no one makes my family laugh more than Jason, including my 85-year-old grandfather in South Georgia. Whenever we go home for a visit, I am guaranteed at least two times when Jason makes Papa laugh to tears. He’s just magnetic that way.
Which brings me to today. Today I am proud to celebrate ten years of marriage. We met on October 12th, 2001 and were married six years and six months to that date; May 12th, 2007. Jason makes me feel anything but average. Anything but overlooked. He sees me; blatant faults and all, and loves me still. Nothing is more exposing than marriage. I mean, when you pee with the door open, all secrets are out!
You know, I never wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t a hey-I-might-think-about-it kind of thought. It was a firm refusal, arrogant, I-think-my-life-was-built-for-more, I’m-not-wearing-cat-sweaters verdict. (Yes, I was under the delusion that all teachers wore cat sweaters). My senior year at North Georgia College and State University confirmed this proclamation when I was forced to share classrooms with pre-education majors. With their colored pencils and foldables in tote, they complained about proximity, rubric construction, and bulletin boards. These were not my people. My people were the analytical, satirical, argumentative over literary qualms people. I’m even embarrassed to say that my senior capstone project was centered on the thesis that education degrees were nonsensical. All educators should be required to have content degrees versus degrees on pedagogy. Even though I still think there is a lot of merit to that thesis, it was clearly an arrogant and ignorant 21-year-old writing that capstone report.
However, God put two dear friends (later turned bridesmaids) in my life who challenged all my judgmental assumptions. They were both English Education majors who opened my English Publication major eyes. We shared courses, commonalities, and convictions. All young. All engaged. All focused on our lives ahead of us, not the absurdities of college drama. They both exuded such passion for young adults and faith for the future, they starkly juxtaposed the annoyances of those I judged all education majors from. By the spring of my senior year, I was taking a heavy course load (including Spanish 2001 and Spanish 2002 at the same time), working full time in retail management, and planning a wedding that was just 6 days after graduation (Yep, I was crazy!). Both my English Education friends were finishing up student teaching and one friend had already been offered the job she was currently learning from. She knew of another opening at that school, same department and hallway, and persuaded me to apply. With seriously no thought on obtaining an interview, I applied mainly to appease her kindness. I was looking for opportunities to break out of the retail rut and get my feet wet in a career, but education was clearly far from my sight.
You know, I wanted to be Barbra Walters. Ok, maybe not the overly teased bangs or radical disposition spoken from The View, but I want to make a mark on the news just as she had done. I wanted to write, and interview, and tell stories. I wanted to inspire, encourage, and lead. To me, Barbara Walters was all of this. She was a pioneer. She was significant. She was respected.
As a little kid, I have this memory of me standing in my front year on Union Church Road, wearing my mom’s stethoscope around my neck. With the ear pieces in, I would take the diaphragm chest piece and would speak directly into it. Really, I was corresponding. I was live from Union Church Road letting the viewers know that indeed the mail was being delivered at that very moment. I would even take Kermit the Frog’s broadcasting catchphrase; “Hi, ho. This is Kermit the Frog here reporting live from Sesame Street.”
Somewhere in the shuffle of college classes, retail management, and pre-married bliss, I forgot about my passions and instead focused on finding that career, you know, the one that pays the bills.
Well, a week after haft heartedly applying to teach, I was hustling across campus running late from work and even later to class when my phone rang. Dr. Terry Sapp and Mr. Bill Thompson from Chestatee High School requested an interview . . . with ME! What was I was going to say to these two lifetime educators? With, I’m sure, an out of breath response, I set up a date and time. I had little time to panic as I continued running down the hill from Jason’s apartment at Sherman Green (where I parked to avoid paying for a parking permit) into the always freezing Newton Oaks building.
One week later with my crisp J.Crew navy blue suit and matching pumps, I printed a fresh copy of my resume and prepared for questions that I had no idea how to answer. In hindsight, the interview is somewhat of a blur, but I do remember Dr. Sapp complimenting me on my suit choice. I later learned that a compliment from Dr. Sapp was a major win. I would spend my first couple of years in fear of her, and the rest in absolute awe.
Well, as you can tell, I got the job. What were they thinking? I knew nothing! Literally nothing! I did not know about classroom management, or GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) or EQ’s (Essential Questions). Everything I knew about education came from the other side, from observing, from being a student myself. And not always a good one at that. I mean, let’s not even talk about math!
But like everything else in my life, I have always learned best by doing. I’m a kinesthetic learner (yes, teaching has taught me about learning profiles too). I jumped feet first into the educational world, luckily surrounded by advanced swimmers and industrial-strength personal flotation devices. I went under more times than I care to count with more teacher fails than I’ll ever share but somewhere along the way, I figured something out: if you don’t love the kids, the kids will never learn to love. They will never love the curriculum, each other, or themselves. So that’s what I decided to do, about three years in, I began focusing all my attention on the learners. The curriculum, instead, I would learn right along with them.
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation