This may seem disjointed at first, but hang with me.
1) I’ve been an Elvis fan as long as I can remember. My mom was an Elvis fan. It was the most natural thing in the world to also be an Elvis fan. Fortunately, my best friend was also an Elvis fan. We would put on concerts in his play room. Stereo blasting, he would be belting out Elvis and I was singing the part of back up J.D. Sumner. Well, belting the bass parts as well as an 8-year old can. It never left me as I got older. My brother-in-law gave me a life-size stand up of Elvis in his gold lame suit. It now greets my students at the door.
2) Last year was easily the worst year of my career. Too many changes. Too much flowing from upstream that I had absolutely no control over. I pursued teaching in my thirties. I felt called. It was an irresistible call. And then last year actually made me question if I was still supposed to be teaching. It was that bad. Just when I needed it last year, former students dropped by to see me. One brought the most incredible framed photos of us when she was in 5th grade and one of us when she was a senior at her soccer teacher appreciation night. Those visits began to push aside the horrible year I was having.
3) On our first teacher day this year, our new vice principal had us write down our favorite memory of when we were in school. Then he challenged us to figure out what it was about that memory that made it so special. For me, it was Mr. Clark’s class. It was special because of the relationship we had. We examined this some more and made the connection that the relationships are what I strive for with my students. Some teachers strive to present challenges. Some strive for perfect lesson plans. For me though, it’s relationships. I want my kids to want to come to school, to enjoy every minute there, even when they struggle.
So, imagine the confirmation when I checked my email this morning and found an email from a former student in her first year of education classes in college. She had an assignment to write about a former teacher. She thought I would like to see the essay.
Forgive me the indulgence of putting this out there. But this is why I teach. This is affirmation of what I do.
Elvis Presley was My Fifth Grade Teacher:
The Teacher Who is My Inspiration
Fifth grade was a difficult concept to grasp. I was leaving my beloved elementary school that I could easily walk to for a large middle school with strange teachers and even more students. My parents said I had nothing to worry about but I knew within my gut that fifth grade would be an abhorrent experience. That was until I switched to my language arts and social studies class where I entered a room of books that filled two whole book cases, maps placed all around the white boards at the front of the room, and a tiny window draped with Elvis Presley curtains. Wait, Elvis Presley? “Who is that,” asked my unenlightened fifth grade brain. As my brain continued to wonder, Mr. Kesselring introduced himself and changed the way I thought about school for the rest of my life. Mr. K and Elvis helped me to define my passions as a student, to never be afraid to demonstrate those passions, and to keep one goal in mind: to inspire.
Mr. K was an amazing teacher in every way (and still is). He genuinely cared about the wellbeing and needs of his students. He used many examples, some of them Elvis related, and told lots of stories that helped explain topics we were going over in class. This helped me to better comprehend the subjects and eased my anxiety of not being able to keep up with the class. One of my favorite moments in Mr. K’s class was during our social studies part of class and we must have been going over the voyage of Lewis and Clark because Mr. K had sent one of the students in my class on a bogus journey across the white boards. I don’t remember all of the details but I remember how much I enjoyed that particular lesson and how hard my class and I laughed. Mr. K was also an excellent reader. I already had a deep love for reading but Mr. K was the first teacher I had that expressed emotion as they read a story aloud. We read a terribly sad book about a dog and Mr. K had started crying. His emotions helped me to realize that stories are just more than words on a page—they are there for any one person to completely delve in and comprehend the author’s true message. Just the way Mr. K taught or spoke sometimes resonated deep within me how passionate one person could be about anything! He truly opened my mind to a world of wonder and possibilities.
Now how did I come to call Mr. Kesselring Elvis? Most know that Elvis Presley was a truly amazing artist and inspired many to follow their own passions in the music industry. Well, Mr. K is my Elvis Presley. He is the true reason as to why I am becoming a teacher. He helped me to realize that fifth graders have so much potential and how much more impressionable they are than other grades, thus being the reason why I want to teach fifth graders. And now that I am in college and I reflect back upon my earlier teachers, Mr. K fully embodies the ideal teacher: someone who listens, respects, understands, and most importantly, cares about each student and what they embody at such a young age. I want to be that exact same teacher. Finally, Mr. K gave me one central goal to focus on as a teacher: to simply inspire. To inspire all of or at least one young mind that I encounter in years to come to encompass that they are someone who can change the world or the world around them. Thank you Mr. Kesselring, for everything.
If you’re a teacher and read my blog, go out and inspire your kids. And if they’re only your students and not your kids…start right there.