This month I cooked my first meal for 15 people. Initially, I thought this was an easy task. After-all, I feel confident about my abilities and felt strong about my knowledge. I made an Indian meal consisting of cabbage fry, daal, kale, and lamb curry. All of which I’ve made hundreds of times successfully. To be honest, it’s been a while since I messed up Indian food. So, I cooked for a friend’s birthday for two days. I had an achievable plan that would leave plenty of time to relax after all the cooking was done. I thought I had prepared for everything.
My friend, her husband (my sous chef), and I set out to cook the lamb first because it takes a long to get it super tender. The day of the party arrived and we finished with an hour and a half to rest and get ready. I kept tasting all the dishes and they seemed okay individually, but felt upon each tasting that I needed to adjust the flavor. I adjusted the flavor many times before guests began to arrive. When we all sat to eat, I was hungry and excited.
After my first spoonful, a deep disappointment set in. This was the blandest array of Indian food I had ever prepared. Indian food is about a blend of colorful flavors and mine tasted like a pasta salad without any flavorings-not what I had expected on my tongue. I watched and smiled as others complimented me, but couldn’t shake the disappointment. I always say if food isn’t orgasmically good than it’s not worth eating. This was no where close to being mind blowing…
If it isn’t obvious to you already, I tend to be the type of person who can’t shake feeling not good enough. These past couple of years of my life have been about my journey to shake this feeling. Last year I landed a job where I wasn’t able to perform at my highest level as a teacher due to many outside circumstances that were out of my control. This year I set out to prove to everyone (students, administration, parents) that I am a good teacher and one that was meant to be a teacher! As the year closes, I still can’t shake my disappointment from last year…even after having a successful year with students and having seen some serious progress in student growth!
So I set out to write about this disappointment in hopes of letting go of some of this disappointment and seeing this situation with new eyes. My unofficial mentor teacher (A.) always reminds me that teaching is not about teaching students the curriculum although, you do do this; Teaching is about helping even one student feel like she/he can fearless search for and achieve their dreams, their true potentially. It’s about seeing and dreaming for him/her what he/she may not be able to see for him/herself yet. I do believe this about teaching. I have the power to inspire students to be anything they want to be in life. This is the most validating part of my job.
So yes, the parents of my students don’t believe that I am the best teacher for their child and maybe my principal has trouble seeing the truth about my abilities because his thinking is clouded by all the parents who speak with him. This could be a result of my young face, being a person of color, and/or their false perception of what happens in my classroom. The truth is none of these people have spent enough time in my classroom to fully understand the type of teacher I am. While all of this may or may not be true, it is not what defines me as a teacher!
Here is what defines me as a teacher: My student (A.) is able to craft thoughtful essays that are organized and feels confident about her abilities in my classroom! My student (V.) wrote her final reflective piece of writing about her determination and courage that has developed this year in English class. My student (C.) wrote and delivered a class speech that adults remembered and referred to throughout the graduation ceremony. My student (M.) read a book this semester at home because I challenged him to do it! My 8th and 7th grade classes participated in the A Day of Silence in support of the LGBT community because I said I would be participating. My student (A.) believes in her abilities as a writer after several writing conferences with me. My student (Q.) did not get another referral after my mentorship of three weeks. These are not disappointments! As A. always says, this is what counts about being a teacher not the test scores, not what the administration says or thinks about you and definitely not what the parents who have never been in your classroom think or say about you!
And yes, the dinner that I made wasn’t the best dinner I’ve ever made, but I cooked with two of my favorite people. We laughed and talked as I cooked, which I never get to do. Having J. be my sous chef, also showed me that I do not have to be in control of everything in order for me to be successful. Leaning on others makes me a stronger person. As time goes by, I am finally acknowledging that life is about perception. You can see the world and your experiences as disappointing or you can seek the truth. And it takes courage to stand in your truth everyday!