Making a contribution

This post started as just a Facebook post and flowed very earnestly. It reached a length and depth where I decided to make it a blog post. I was very excited to post it until I got near the end, at which point it felt like useless prattling on. I decided that the feeling was instigated by fear—because there’s a lot of vulnerability in this post—and not because it actually was dull. To help me strengthen my self-assessment abilities, would you give me feedback? Yes, it was interesting and thank you for sharing it, or no, your sudden realization that this wasn’t interesting to a reader was correct. (Yes, that answer will sting, but if it’s honest and it’s kind, then it’s useful. I’m asking to assess, not fishing for compliments.) Thanks!

One of my “things” is wanting (needing?) to feel like a part of a group. While this is a human thing—we are social animals—in me, it’s also rooted in being the black sheep of my family, of being consistently and explicitly labeled as “other” for my formative years.

Being a traveling teacher makes it really difficult to have a work family. (For those unfamiliar, a traveling teacher has their assignment broken up onto multiple campuses. We might be at different schools on different days, we might go from school to school within the same day. Depends on the position and how the schedules are designed. My schedule now has me on each campus for an hour every day.)

I don’t see most colleagues regularly and almost never for more than a few minutes at a time. Depending on schedule, I might not have lunch at anyone else’s lunch time. (Or I might have lunch at a campus where everyone eats in their room.) Being somewhat socially anxious doesn’t help.

So the people around me have work family (their team or the campus at large or whomever) and I pop in and out. This is definitely a part of my life where social media reinforces my “other” status.

(As an aside, I remember the first time a coworker came into my room not because they needed something but just to say hello. It was in 2006. And the first people I hung out with outside of school. Same job. I was full time on that campus, not traveling. That school and the one I’m about to write about are the only two—out of 14 in my career—where a colleague popped in and started a conversation not about work.)

Having the same home school for the past five years helps. I go to teacher work days with the same people every year. I know who most of the people on campus are, and they know who I am. (Well … I know at least half. I’m not so good with classified—they’re not at our meetings. And some teachers I recognize but don’t know who they are…)

Having a home school with friendly people helps a little. While there have been other jobs where I’ve felt more “at home” on campus, that was more a result of the schedule than the people, and I’m grateful to be welcomed into the “family” at my home school, even if I’m the kid who is only there every other weekend and two weeks in the summer.

Also as a traveler, it’s difficult to be able to do things on campus beyond basic job responsibilities. When I didn’t travel, I spent one or more years as team lead, mentor teacher, testing coordinator, member of the school improvement committee, member of the school’s community council.

(What’s the point of all this, Heat?)

My home school is going through the process of applying to be an A+ school. Because my principal knows I’m a strong writer and am reliable, I was invited to do editing, to help ensure the voice of the application was consistent, even with multiple people contributing their writing. My writing ego was stroked (hat tip to the principal for her solid move there) and I was able to contribute to my campus. Opportunities like that help me to feel more like I’m part of the whole.

Today was one of two days that we were observed as part of the application.

Today happened to be a day in the rotation that I was teaching hip hop. We just added it in January to see if it works with the grade level (I’ve only taught it to slightly older kids before) and with our kids and with the schedule and on and on. It’s an experiment.

The class is small but we’re having a good time, learning a lot. Reading, writing, listening, talking. Lots of thinking/opinion questions. Some great conversations. Periodic temperature check with the kids indicates they both enjoy it and think it should be offered again in the future.

So today, we got to “show off” for the observers. The class itself wasn’t super-exciting to watch: mostly reading questions and writing answers before we had a conversation about them. But it’s something that’s not offered many places and, as I learned later, one of the students gushed to one of the observers about how awesome the class is some time before class.

Besides me enjoying teaching hip hop in its own right, today it got to be a feather in my school’s cap. I feel good being able to contribute more than “the usual.”


Oh! The post I said I’d share today about carcinogens and their ubiquity and the pieces of that puzzle that are on us but shouldn’t be? I’ll share that one tomorrow. For real this time.

And the curriculum I’m using for the hip hop class is called Fresh Beats by Rob Vagi.


0 thoughts on “Making a contribution”

  1. Thanks for sharing! I thought your piece was interesting. I think we all want to humbly showcase our talents every so often for the good of the group/community. I’m sure when you are traveling and not many people know you well it becomes infinitely more I’m glad you still have opportunities to showcase your talents 🙂

  2. I loved this. I can identify so much – growing up I always felt adopted and unwanted for who I am. I think I was always unconsciously looking for a place to fit in, a family, maybe even just a mama who I felt like actually loved or even liked who I am. I think at some point I gave up trying, or wanted to. But the last few years God Almighty has brought me into a place that feels like home, with a real family, and it’s been the sweetest experience of my life. I say it is Him because I’m convinced by now that loving someone like family is a complete miracle, whether you’re related to them or not. I hope this for you too friend. Love you even though I’ve only met you once. I do think the world of you 😇


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