Teachers in my district have been back since August 22nd readying their classrooms and attending PD (professional development). This year we had a really engaging speaker join us for two mornings to help us understand cultural competency and incorporate more awareness in our classrooms about diversity. We had a lot of fun over the course of the sessions and it was time well spent.
One afternoon last week as I drove home, I began to think about the homeless people in California. Now, before you start thinking to yourself, "Oh my gosh! The school year hasn't even started yet and she's already talking nonsense and babbling", let me stop and explain.
My husband and I spent some time in California over the summer, exploring new places and taking in as many sights as possible each day. As in every city across our country, we encountered homeless people sitting on street corners and tucked away in doorways. As in every city, these less fortunate people usually clutched a cardboard sign to communicate to the people passing by. They have but a brief moment to try and catch a person's attention. A minute to get someone to pause briefly and, hopefully, deposit a few coins into the can. I read their pleas for money and couldn't help but notice that their signs were not the usual ones I have read before. The homeless people in California have stepped up their game.
For example, one unfortunate man, sitting on a corner in a wheelchair with only one leg held up a sign proclaiming, "On my last leg". Indeed. Another held a big sign as he smiled widely and encouraged passersby to smile with him. He happily yelled out, "Smile!" to the tourists flocking around him, no doubt hoping to score some cash. I chuckled as I read his neat sign announcing, "I'm not gonna lie. It's for weed." I guess honesty is the best policy, right?
For sure the best cardboard plea for money I spotted as we wandered through the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco. I was amazed and amused enough, feeling as if I had just stepped back into the 60's walking down the street and catching conversations while checking out the stores. This place is people-watching at it's finest. Sitting against a pole, along the side of the busy street sat a young man with long hair and dingy bell bottoms. I gave him a quick look and my eye caught the sign he had perched next to him against several garbage bags full of his belongings. "Your Ad Here" it offered. Fantastic! I elbowed my husband and asked him if he noticed the homeless man's sign.
"Isn't that brilliant?" I said. "What a great idea! He might as well advertise while he sits there. Like a homeless billboard."
"He's probably an advertising major," my husband noted, not to be outdone by the humor in the situation.
Later in the week at our first staff meeting for the year, our principal asked us to think about ourselves and teaching and share something we are good at and something we would like to work on this year. I looked around at my teacher friends at school. Wouldn't it be great if each of them created their own cardboard sign? What would they say? What would they say about their dedication to the field, the excitement about the year ahead, and their goals for the upcoming year? What would they advertise about their strengths or their weaknesses?
All of this reminds me to count my lucky stars and be thankful every day for all I have. A terrific daughter, a wonderful husband, a faithful dog, and healthy, loving parents and family. I have a beautiful home, a nice new car, and food and clothing. I have a challenging and rewarding job where I work with people I admire and can call friends. I am healthy and have been fortunate to be able to travel to many places around the world.
I'm thankful that I have never had to experience times of hunger or, God forbid, homelessness. If I ended up somehow amongst the homeless on the street, my sign would say something like this:
Finally, to all my teacher friends, may this year be your best ever. We are all fortunate enough to not be homeless on the street, but to be in the classroom. Let's have a happy, positive year of change and growth and fun. Let's appreciate the diversity around us and be appreciative of all our differences. Let's not be pulled down by the testing and the stress and the sometimes overwhelming feeling of somehow not being quite enough or good enough.
We are teachers.
We are the hope and the good that can change a child's life forever.
Happy first day of school tomorrow.
Let's do this.