The blank journal

Fifteen years ago, I entered my first classroom as a teacher. The state of California issued me an emergency credential and I was invited to mold the minds of 20 five year olds just like that.

That morning, I almost peed my pants.

My classroom still wasn’t organized.There were parents everywhere. A couple of children were wailing. My lesson plan book was attached to me as I walked around the room, making sure every minute was accounted for.

In short, I was a mess.

The school paired newbies up with experienced teachers. Mine was Mrs. R. At 22, Mrs. R looked ancient to me (in reality, she was probably 52). But, she knew her stuff like nobody’s business. She was in the kindergarten room next door. She had taught in that room, to that age group, for 20+ years! Her posters and charts were hand-made in D’Nealian font, laminated for preservation. She led phonics lessons while making finger puppets as she disciplining kids with her eyes. She was a pro.

On the playground, we’d chat. We’d joke around. She’d curse under her breath, sharing her frustrations with the administration, bi-lingual education, and needy parents. She was approachable and I felt safe under her wing.

Last weekend, I went through some old boxes of items I’ve lugged around from country to country. In one, I dusted off a journal. The cover had images of a chalkboard, an apple, and a bubbly title that said Teacher’s Journal. On the inside cover, Mrs. R wrote a dedication to me.

Then, I flipped to the first page….nothing.

I quickly flipped the next one and the next. Nada.


I was struck with sudden sadness. What did this mean?

Was I too overwhelmed those rookie years to write my experiences down? Did I have nothing to share? Was my heart not in it? Was it telling that this blank journal has popped up at a time when I am shifting careers?

Maybe all of these thoughts carry a bit of truth with them.

Yet, I believe it when I shared all this with my parents saying, “But…I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time.”

This teaching journey has been showered with unforgettable moments:

*uniting with Fremont Unified teachers in developing a better bilingual program
*receiving an album from my class in Tunis with thank-you letters
*working with four 4th grade classes learning about water conservation and participating in a 5K Walk for Water Fundraising campaign
*welling up whenever my class got on stage to sing anything
*getting a FB message from a former student who I taught 7th grade Spanish to and has lived in Chile while speaking the language fluently
*collaborating with a local Colombian school in a gardening project
*getting hugs in the hallways and sweet hand-made cards

The list goes on.

I guess a blank teacher journal can indicate many things.

But, one thing is does not do: it does not erase the wonderful experiences I’ve had on this journey.

                                                                                     photo credit

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