In 1998, Sharon Draper, a young adult author, and I had the opportunity to present together. Here I was in my fourth year of teaching, and she was the author of the award-winning book Tears of a Tiger. I was so nervous. How was I going to present after this phenomenal educator turned writer? I introduced myself to the group like this: “I am Noelle Morris, and I am just a teacher.” Mrs. Draper quickly and with sincere intent corrected my introduction and exclaimed, “Do not ever say ‘just’ as if you are less than anyone else here today. You need to trust that you have a story and experience that benefit your students daily and that the audience sitting here today appreciates. Your authenticity and the depth of your experiences and knowledge remind participants that teachers matter.” From that moment on, an additional swagger was added into my step, as was a deep desire for inspiring other teachers to find, keep, and replicate the joy of teaching. Every step since that moment has been to keep finding the rainbows within my educational journey.
Who does not smile when they spot a rainbow? Who hasn’t asked themselves, “How far does that rainbow reach?” Admit it, you are still mesmerized when you discover a double rainbow. And though you know you really can’t taste one, you have selected a specific candy for a pick-me-up punch as well as created a lesson around the vibrant fruitful pieces. A teacher’s self-care is exactly the same phenomenon as the RAINBOW because it too is created by reflection, refraction, and dispersion.
I have never been someone who waits to be invited to the party. I walk into a room and immediately scan, find some noise, make my way to the center, and then move within. Now, that doesn’t mean that my first-year teaching was anything but a personal disaster with moments of hopeful glory, walks to my teacher mailbox praying for a flyer with suggested professional reading, and random encouragements from team members still trying to figure out if this profession was for me. Today, it’s too easy to find resources, mentors, chats, and professional learning sessions. The challenge is in deciding what aligns to your needs, goals, and teacher personality. We no longer have to wait for answers to come to us. We do not need to hesitate, instead we can rise up to our own challenges and inspirations and to feed our passion for the craft. Ask yourself today, “What . . ., Why . . ., How . . .” and go search.