the dreaded question and rejection letters


I’ve just finished a week of inservice and meetings and plannings and wanting to poke my eyes out. I spent my last Saturday morning of summer making copies and setting up a demo.
One afternoon this week I got to sit through some technology training. The technology, surprise, was not working. So while the presenter stalled she made us go around and say why we became a teacher.
I had to go first.
And I HATE that question.
You’d think that starting my 12th year, I’d have a good answer stored away. But I froze.
I can’t even tell you what I said it was so lame. I've already blocked it out.

And then today I stumbled across this.
My first rejection letter. Sort of.
It was the Community Opinions page ripped out of the Dallas Morning News. 5 years ago. With the obituaries on the back.

A month or so before that page in the Dallas Morning News, me and my husband somehow ended up kidless and eating brunch in uptown. Someone had left the paper on the table and me and Shaun traded pages as we ate. I ran across a request for submissions. They wanted a group of teachers to regularly contribute articles throughout the school year.
This was preblog.
But sounded like my kind of thing. I applied. And I thought I’d be a shoe-in.
Which is funny because I had zero writing experience. No writing classes in college. And I didn’t even live in any of the districts they were requesting. But it felt perfect for me. I liked to write. I liked teaching. And what was the likelihood of me reading the paper on the day they asked for submissions. I thought it was meant to me.
So I emailed the contact listed at the bottom and he send me an application.
And guess what the first question was…
The dreaded “Why do you teach?”

And I thought on it for a while.
I never grew up thinking I wanted to be a teacher. (A trapeze artist, advertising executive, dermatologist and/or physical therapist. Yes. Teacher. No.) And I’d had some great ones, but it wasn’t even on my radar. But I think that is usually how God keeps things interesting. I changed majors mid freshman year and it was just one of those things I was sure about. Knew that I was supposed to do.

But I’m thinking "I just knew and I really like office supplies" weren’t going to cut it on the application. So I did what I often do when I don’t know what to say. I just started typing and this is what came out. (which yes I realize, kind of dodges the question).

“The best thing about my job is that first day – every notebook is blank, attitudes are fresh. Today, I am not behind; there are no papers to grade. Everyone has a 100. Faces look eager. Everyone is awake. Pencils are sharp. I am excited to meet them all. I struggle to remember names. They are trying to decide if I am mean or give lots of homework. I am looking for a way in, some connections so that next month they will still be awake and maybe even learn a little bit of chemistry along the way.
I like the freshness of the day. I have a job with summers, spring breaks, school supplies and pep rallies. I often find myself drained, but I am never bored. I am constantly challenged and am quite possibly learning more from them than they are from me. There are bad days and even bad weeks, but there is always the hope of August and a fresh start.”

And that isn’t my best writing. But it is still true. I was tempted to make it sound a little better when I retyped it just now. So the real writers out there might not be surprised to know that in my inbox a few days later was my first rejection letter. A thanks but no thanks, but also letting me know that my answers were property of the paper and might find their way in print. I figured that last bit was just letting a girl down easy.

So I was surprised when, a month or so later, a principal stopped me in the office at the end of a LONG day of inservice and meetings, and said he really liked my article in the paper that day. I rushed out and bought a copy after school. There is something about seeing your name in print that I can’t explain. Even if no one was paying me for it.

And when I found it again today…two things hit me. First days are still one of the reasons I teach. And secondly. I haven’t had enough rejection letters. Mainly because I haven’t given my writing the chance to be rejected. So…here is to first days and rejection letters. I hope for many more of both.

(and this song has nothing do with anything.. i just really like this version and blared it in my classroom this morning while i got ready for my latest first day!)

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