Talk About The Passion (Guest Blogger: Kristen Perkins)
I’ve issued an open call for guest bloggers for the month of October and through Election Day, but this post didn't come from that call - it came from Facebook.
Some of you remember Facebook - it's where people not on Twitter talk about things, but with more puppies and fake news sites mixed in. The funny thing is, there are some quality folks writing there who still don't blog or even tweeterize. Go figure!
I came across Kristen Perkins, who'd written an passionate explanation of why she taught, with vigor, even in Oklahoma. (For you out-of-staters reading, we don't care much for no book learnin' round here.) A friend insisted she send her FB post to me, which she did, and I asked her to revisit it and then let me share it here.
Which, as you've probably guessed, is what this is.
I even made her write her own intro. I figured it would be better than whatever I could cobble together, and it is. I added the aesthetics after the fact because I just can't resist that sort of thing. But the good parts are all her.
If you have something on your mind or anything you'd be willing to share, you have a couple of weeks left to let me know. There are few if any limits on topic or length – I merely ask for basic decency and sincerity. It’s ideal if you disagree with me about something, but given how difficult that is to do once basking in Blue, it’s not a requirement. I'm looking for other voices - whatever the angle or passion in play.
My name is Kristen Perkins. I teach 2nd grade in a Title I school in Moore, Oklahoma. This is my 15th year of teaching, and I have a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. My decision to pursue an advanced degree baffled most of my friends and family, because my post-degree income would increase by about $40 per month, or $20 per paycheck. They couldn’t understand that it was simply about better preparing myself to do what it is I am driven to do every day.
This has been on my mind, and on my heart, so I'm going to try to put it into words. Please don't think this is about teacher raises or even classroom conditions. It is about having a passion.
For the past two weekends, I have either gone to school to work in my classroom or have run up to open the building to let other teachers in, so they can work. At one point, I counted nine of us there on a Saturday. Those who left before I did took work with them to continue to work on at home. On Monday, rather than appearing rested, we look at each other and ask, "Didn't we just leave here?"
Those outside the profession often shake their heads at us and say, "It must be a calling." We are often asked, "Why on earth do you devote so much time to something that barely pays your bills?" It's about passion, and if you've never had passion for something... for anything... I'm not sure you'll understand.
I have had many jobs prior to this. Before teaching, I even worked in a career where I made much more money than I ever will as a teacher. I was given profit sharing, monthly and holiday bonuses, and a clothing allowance. I was routinely taken to restaurants for staff lunches with colleagues in other offices, where we ate great food, chewed every bite, and never once worked on paperwork while enjoying our meal. I had all of the freedom to negotiate the salary that I wanted. Which I did. Successfully.
Still, when payday came, I opened my check and thought, "Well, two more weeks until I get another one of these. Back to the grind." It was about a paycheck. I left that behind, not because I was "called" or because I have some noble desire to live barely above the poverty line. I left that career for this one, because every day spent in the other career with all of its trappings was another day spent pushing aside, dampening, desperately trying to quiet... a passion.
Have you had nothing in your life that excited you to the point that you stopped counting the days or hours until payday, and instead looked forward to the next day, when you get to return to that place that fulfills you, inspires you, exhausts you, tests you, challenges you and completely defines you? That's why I do it.
It's worth it to me to spend my Saturday cutting out laminated flashcards and creating custom activities if I believe in my heart that using them will help a little boy who is two years behind in reading learn a handful of new words. It's worth it to me to grade papers until I doze off, or to spend my weekend at a conference, because those things are an important part of the big picture. It's worth it to me to shut my classroom door after a Friday dismissal and cry because my heart was broken in five different directions that day. If I can't love them like my own, their struggles remain obstacles rather than mere hurdles. It's worth it to me, because one day, that little girl who isn't sure when she'll see her father again, or that little boy who doesn't believe he is smart and thinks he'll never learn to read... might have a passion. They might want to pursue it. It might burn inside them, and they may have to struggle to follow it.
I want to be a part of putting all of the pieces in place so that they have the best chance possible to live their dreams, however exhausting, challenging, heartbreaking, and completely fulfilling they may be. It doesn't mean I love my family any less, or even that I find this "job" more important than them. It means that I'm not completely who I want to be unless I'm pursuing this passion at the level that I feel is my best. Only when I'm THAT person, can I be a completely good mother, daughter, girlfriend, friend, sister or teacher.
I'm fortunate that those closest to me are patient. My children have grown up watching me push myself, push my students, sacrifice my time, and throw my energy into children that don't live under our roof. I hope they understand my motivations, and I hope that it pushes them to never settle for a "job" and a "paycheck." I want them chasing their passion. THAT is what life is about.