There is a spot on my teacher evaluation form where my administrator always asks "Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?"
I absolutely hate that question. It is a loaded question.
Because, see, there's this idea in schools... and in America, generally... that if you're not headed somewhere different then you're stuck. I just don't ascribe to that philosophy. So when I am asked that question, I typically hem-haw around or throw out some teacher-talk to make the question go away.
(You know what teacher-talk is. It's like mom-talk, where moms talk all around the topic but never really answer your question. But you're not sure if she answered your question because your mind wandered away, and now you can't admit that you weren't listening because you'd get in big trouble. Teacher-talk is the same but with more educational jargon.)
But what I really want to say is this: I'm not done here yet. I don't need to move on up because I'm not finished here. I have more to learn. Just when I think I've got the hang of it, my kids show me otherwise. Kids are good at things like "showing you otherwise".
Today, my school loaded up 650 of our kids and staff, loaded 20 buses, and drove 15 miles to downtown Fort Worth and a visit to Bass Hall. Admittedly, I doubted this trip at first. It was too many kids having to be still and quiet for too long while watching a play they wouldn't understand (Macbeth). But we were going, so we did our best to prepare our kids. We talked about audience etiquette and background of the play and what we were NOT going to do.
What I didn't prepare them for -- what I didn't prepare myself for -- was the moment we stepped off the bus, and they were transfixed, staring up into the clouds, at buildings taller than most had ever seen in person. We were 15 miles away, but we might as well have been in New York City. Our lovely docent tried to hustle us in, but I had to ask her to slow down. "There's a lot to take in." She smiled, understanding. I smiled back, grateful for her understanding.
I had told my crew that this was a fancy place, and we would be fancy accordingly. We are a uniform school, so I told them that if they went for an evening performance, they'd need to dress up a bit. Yet for a matinee with 700 other students, perhaps just wearing your khakis without the mustard stain would do.
What I didn't expect was to walk up to school and see a boy -- an especially challenging boy -- in a tuxedo shirt and black bow tie. Or one of my girls in a flouncy black skirt and heels. Or boys who tucked in their shirts for, possibly, the first time in history. Fancy is as fancy dresses.
I had told them that we were representing our schools and our families and ourselves and that others would be watching. Some might even be waiting for us to make a mistake because of their own misconceptions of who we are.
What I didn't expect was a calm morning with little argument or discussion of where to be or what to do. My kids were quiet, and they are never quiet. I could tell they were nervous. I could tell they were ready.
I had asked them to have an open mind about Shakespeare. I had advised them to watch the action and faces for clues to break down such difficult language.
What I didn't expect were kids who not only understood but who even laughed and gasped and tensed at all the right places. What I didn't expect was to watch a student (who was just in my room yesterday for after-school detention) sit three rows up and lean forward intently, taking in each word, each strike of the sword, each expression.
I had asked them to enjoy today for the experience even if they did not or could not enjoy the play itself.
What I didn't expect was to sit next to a favorite student of mine -- a student who has had a difficult adjustment to junior high -- and watch him sit, unblinking, enraptured by the sights and sounds of the actors, lighting, and scene. What I didn't expect was for him to tell me how he wanted his mom to come so she could see all of this too.
I asked my kids to be gracious and thoughtful to those who were working to give this experience to us. What I didn't expect was for my kids to thank the docents and the bus driver without prompting.
I had hoped others would see us as I see my kids -- as kids -- and not as "Nichols" and what those misconceptions that often brings.
What I didn't expect? To overhear another bus driver say, over the radio, "Now these Nichols students have been wonderful. They are a great group of kids."
What I didn't expect? How things like that never fail to make me cry no matter how many times someone might say it.
So where will I be in 7 years? Hopefully still here. Because I've got more things to learn.