“By the way your grades look right now, college isn’t looking like it might not be a very realistic goal right away.”-direct quote stated to 8th grade me by a middle school counselor. It is 12 years later and remember everything about that day. The disappointment looming inside me when I was leaving the room that day thinking “but, I really am trying, no one believes me” is a feeling I will never forget as long as I live. One I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I remember what I was wearing, what my hair was like, what classroom I was in, what time of day it was… everything. How does a professional just hand a 13 year old a sentence for her future and get up and walk away back to her office? I guess that was that, no college for me. “It’s just not fair, I didn’t even get a chance” I thought. Why does my brain work like this? I love learning why doesn’t my brain love it too? Why can’t I understand? Teachers told me there was no such thing as a stupid question. Then, why whenever I built up the courage to raise my hand in class and answer a question did everyone laugh at me? “I’m the exception”I thought. “There is no such thing as a stupid question except when I ask.” I vowed to stay silent in class from that day onward. I might a well be mute, no one one would hear me utter a single word. I rarely spoke in class for two or three years after that. I barley asked for help when I really needed it and definitely not whole group. It was isolating to hear my classmates talk about what they wanted to be when they “grew up” and what major they wanted to pursue college. It was like every one was talking about the biggest party of the century that I would never be invited to. I secretly wanted to be a teacher. More than anything. How could a girl who wasn’t even getting an invitation to college become a teacher…what a pipe dream.
Here I am 12 years not only a college graduate but a 5th grade teacher. How in the world did that timid, confidentless 13 year old get from there to here?
Teachers. Teachers. Teachers. Teachers. Teachers is the answer. Teachers is my only answer. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m in classroom, that I don’t think about Ms. Karp, Ms. Amberg and Mr. Barnett. Without them- I would certainly not be writing this in my almost-but-not-quite-yet-finished classroom on my lunch break. It’s not just the whole classroom teachers though. It’s the one-on-one teachers too. The one’s who know your struggles like the back of their hand. The one’s who see you fail way more times than you ever succeed. Those ones are special. They see your tears, wipe them away and help you pick yourself back up to “just one more time.” They celebrate with you when you bring that test back they helped you study for. They have a special place in your heart. I have a spot in my heart reserved for my own one-on-one teacher. One that showed up for me every Monday and Wednesday for two years straight. Who saw me cry more times than I can count and got me through high school. Who listened to me talk about dance and my dreams. Who gave me an unlimited supply of grace and patience when I had none left for myself. Michelle Phillips holds that special place in my heart-she has a home there.
It’s been ten years since my last day at Michelle’s desk. 10 years since I said goodbye and what I thought would be my last “thank you”. How do you properly thank someone who gave you everything when you thought you had nothing? There are no words for gratitude like that. If we’re lucky in this life, we have the opportunity to boomerang back around to humans who helped us get to where we are today. To show them “YOU helped me get here. If life didn’t pass me to you, who knows where I’d be or what I would be doing.” That once in a lifetime boomerang was gifted to me.
I started a new job August 3rd 2020. I packed up the life I built and loved in Nashville, TN and moved back to my hometown San Diego, CA. To say I love this job and the people there is the biggest understatement and disservice to my feelings EVER. However, we’re not at this part of the story yet. On my way to my first day I shot up a prayer “Heavenly Father, I need a green light. A green light that I made the right decision coming back here. That this risk I took has placed me right where I need to be. I need my green light”. I show up to work greeted by the friendliest faces, the warmest smiles and the most genuine hearts. I get through half of my first day and am approached by a woman with the gentlest voice and sweetest soul: “You’re Samantha Barnes”. I respond with my biggest smile smile and a resounding “Yes! It’s so nice to meet you!” I’m met with the ultimate green light: “I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Michelle, I used to tutor you”. My jaw about dropped a mile low that day. My heart skipped a beat. I could have burst into tears on the spot. One of the very people who helped me get to where I was in that very moment was now someone I GET to call my co worker? My teammate? My friend? My sister in Christ? My chosen family? Green light. Go.
My wondering seized and peace settled into its rightful spot. I am exactly where I’m suppose to be, a place, with the right people in the right job. As if this wasn’t enough, not only do Michelle and I work at the same school, we’re on the same elementary team. If THAT wasn’t enough, we are classroom neighbors. Someone who loved me so well in a time I so desperately needed it, gets to see the fruit of what her love, investment and time did. It changes a life. The greatest words I’ve been able to say to someone since moving back here were to Michelle “I wouldn’t be here, in this job without you. Thank you.”
Teachers are superheroes, I work with mine every single day.
Thank you Michelle, this one is for you ❤