Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fighting -- and Running -- for the Best Cause I Know

As we honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I cannot help but think about my mother's own struggle with the disease and give thanks for her still being with us today. She is a two-time survivor of breast cancer who also beat ovarian cancer (She has been cancer-free now for almost five years!). What an inspiration and fighter she is!

While my Mom certainly has a lot to celebrate, her older sister, Ellen, is rapidly losing her battle with terminal cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer was discovered at too late a stage last spring, and Ellen was given very little time to live. She has already surpassed that and is a true joy for all in teaching us how to live while dying (much like Randy Pausch did in the past two years for millions of Americans). Ellen, who is my beloved aunt and godmother, is very much a second mom to me. Today, she went to her doctor, her two sisters at her side, and was told that she would be entirely under the auspice of Hospice moving forward.

Despite all of this horrible news, Ellen has remained incredibly grateful for each day she has left with her family. You will NEVER hear her complain about her pain or suffering. In fact, she and I have had some critical conversations about life and death over the course of the last year. It is amazing how much acceptance and wisdom she has about her eventual passing -- and how inspiring it is to watch her treat each new day as a gift.

OK, a touching story, Kay, but how does this relate to teaching? Good question. Two years ago, as a seventh grade teacher, I first learned about Randy Pausch's story and decided to share portions of his "last lecture" to his university and graduate students with my students. Thankfully, they took the lesson seriously, I shared my mother's cancer survivor story, and a few students even shared their own family members' battles with cancer afterwards. Tomorrow, I am going to share my mom and aunt's story and diagnosis with my current students. I will explain to them the importance of giving thanks for the loved ones in our life and all that we are blessed with every day.

In addition, as I turn 27 on Sunday, I am going to tell them about my birthday gift to myself, my Mom, and Ellen -- running a full marathon (my eighth) for breast cancer research in Jacksonville Beach, Florida on my birthday. I see no better way to honor the two most important women in my life. Though certainly not my first marathon, I have no doubt that this race will be the most emotional for me thus far due to its personal significance and the cause it embodies. I know I am not as well-trained as I would like to be due to our lovely DC blizzards, but I will use all the physical and mental strength I can muster to cross that finish line. That race will represent the victories so many women have had in conquering breast cancer, the tragedy of the millions of lives lost, and the hope for my students' generation that we will eradicate this evil disease in their lifetimes. This miraculous day couldn't come soon enough.

Ultimately, I hope to raise awareness about cancer among my students and have them see what is truly worth fighting for in life. As we are in the middle of our unit on responsibility, I hope to model for them what it means to be a proactive, meaningful, and productive member of society, one who never gives up and fights for everyone who cannot. This is not a lesson any curriculum guide can provide but one that our adolescent students need -- and crave -- to prepare for their adulthood lives. Let's keep hope and faith alive for their sake.

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