As the lead ESL teacher in my school district, I often get asked to speak to the faculty, parents or at some other function to share what it is I do for a living, and tonight I was asked to make a presentation to the Board of Education. The BoE are the real bigwigs in any school district. They are five elected officials who make all of the big and final decisions for what's going to go down at school, so this was pretty important...and as such, very scary.
I hate public speaking, but I have to admit I'm getting better at it. Having done it so many times, I've gotten used to having an audience and I've come to act like I'm talking with my class of students whenever I do it, even though the butterflies always flutter leading up to the event. And all of the board meetings are televised, too, so that did not help any.
My goal for the presentation was to share what I do with the Board, which is actually easy because I live it, but as always I wanted to make an impact that will be remembered, so I wanted butts in the seats to help show these folks that the families of my students are just as vested in their children's education as any other parent. I asked my students over and over for the last two weeks to show face, and boy did they!
Both during, and especially after my presentation, people were speaking up. The first comments and questions came from the president of the board herself, and a few parents followed suit. I never took to complements well, but I tried my best to stay humble. Then my students themselves got so caught up in the moment...they're the only ones other than myself who know what really happens in my classroom...and stood up to give their testaments to my program and what it has done for them and their lives.
First up was Jorge, a student who graduated three years ago. He and his girlfriend Emily came to support my presentation upon my invite, and had told me a cute story when they had first arrived. You see, Jorge and Emily have a beautiful baby girl, Abigail, who's just about six months old, and earlier today Jorge had been singing a song to the little one as he held her in his arms.
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Emily had asked him how he knew the Beatles song, and as they were telling me this, I already knew. You see, Hello Goodbye is a great song for learning opposites, and once upon a time I used it in my class to help me teach. "I learned it from Mr. Myers," Jorge proudly told his girlfriend. I could only smile.
After a few parents had commented, Jorge felt the need to throw in his two cents about what learning English meant to him and his life, and I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear, beaming as he told his story, and then Can (pronounced John) spoke.
"I remember when I first came into Mr. Myers' class. I didn't know a word of English...and he couldn't speak Turkish. I can't tell you how he did it, but he taught me to speak enough English that I got out of ESL in just three years."
"Can, you learned English in only three years?" the Board president asked. "Wow!" And she turned to me and smiled. "That's a testament to what a great teacher you are, John."
"And I want to add," Can wasn't finished, "that just the other day I got accepted to my first choice, St. John's, and they gave me a $12,000 scholarship." I hadn't known this. "I never, ever, would have gotten to this point without Mr. Myers. I owe him..." There wasn't a dry eye in the house. The Board president, the parents, the principal, even me (of course!). I was truly humbled!
In a flash it was over, and a reporter from a local newspaper asked if she could take my picture with a couple of my students for next week's edition. I ushered my students and their families out of the auditorium and into the lobby where everybody wanted a picture with me, including the reporter.
Me and my peeps!
For a little while, I felt like a celebrity, and on the ride home I couldn't help but bask in the afterglow of this wonderful evening. Just the fact that more than twenty-five of my student showed up to support me reminded me that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Like I said before, I wish these kinds of reminders would pop up more often, but in the meantime, I'm going to keep this one at the front of my mind and bask in it for at least a few days.