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What They Taught Me

This is it. My last day of teaching.

While I am beyond excited to be venturing into full-time photography (and humbled, and blessed, and terrified, and awestruck...), there is a part of me that is going to miss this life.

When Charlie was a baby, and I was suddenly a divorced single mom, I needed a profession that allowed me to spend time with him. Working with kids was always fun for me, and after a stint as a special education secretary at Arrowhead High School, I decided to dive in. Two licenses and a master's degree later, the experiences I had as a teacher prepared me more for life as a business owner than anything a traditional business degree did.

I learned compassion and kindness

More than anything, while learning from veteran teachers, I learned that compassion and kindness always have a place in the world. My students showed me how to make people blossom just by showing them you try to understand.

In business, a few of my couples have split. A few have changed their minds. A few have not been happy with me. I used to get snarky and act tough. After a career in teaching, I have learned to operate on what I call the good person principle: we are here to help each other and make it the best possible experience.

In a world that is so hard sometimes, I have learned to be a kinder place.

I learned patience...a whole fucking lot of patience

My life is complicated, but no more complicated than anyone else's. When I work with students, even when they frustrate me (and yes, ya'll know how to get on my nerves better than anyone), I developed the beautiful pause. Before reacting to a behavior, I let it sit, I tried to figure out what caused the behavior.

Now, my dear clients, I love you dearly - but sometimes I have to exercise my undoubtedly proficient patience with you. My students taught me this. So on a wedding day when I calmly ask your groomsman for the fourteenth time to put the beer down so we can take pictures - just know that a student developed that skill in me. And yes, I am mentally seething when that happens.

In a world that is quick to anger, I have learned to be at peacce.

I learned to be who I truly am

The beautiful thing about working in education is that you are working with some of the most selfless, brilliant people to walk this Earth. I mean that with every bit of my heart, knowing damn well I do not fit the mold of the typical teacher at all. My colleagues over the past 9 years have been nothing short of miracles in my life, building on the confidence my own teachers helped instill in me as I went through school.

From the person who held me crying after the worst possible experience of my life, to the ones who told me outright they appreciate my sassiness, to the boss that trusted me and my wildness, because he knew how much I loved my kids. All of the qualities that other people tried to tear out of me, my coworkers built stronger. They saw the beauty. They saw my truth. Then, they pulled it out of me and showed me how to navigate the world with it. I would be nowhere without them.

In a world that is quick to judge, I learned to embrace who we need to be.

I learned to believe

I am a sarcastic realist most of the time. I won't lie - sometimes the perpetual optimism of fellow teachers irritates me - but it also lit a fire inside me. Until I started teaching, I always thought I would get a job (with insurance so my dad would sleep easy at night), and work in that field until retirement.

Teachers don't have time for that complacent bullshit.

Every day I was around these incredible people who push kids to be the best version of themselves. And as much as it bugged me at first, that little emo teenage self still holding on finally let go. When I shed that skin, a new me arrived - 10 years later than expected - and blossomed into something beyond my wildest dreams. It is because of my fellow teachers that I was even ever brave enough to take this next big step.

In a world that is quick to dampen your light, I learned to shine brighter than before.

There are countless other lessons, and I could go on, but I like to maintain my outer vibe of stone-cold-emotionless gypsy, and the chest is getting tight and my eyes are going to spill.

To all of my teachers, my colleagues, and my students - thank you. I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know.

Now get me that horizon.


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