I started my teaching career at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA. I had three up and down years and learned a ton about what it means to be a teacher — I learned from strong mentors and made some great friends who are very dedicated to what they do. After three years, however, I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater — and I jumped on it.
I can’t say as I remember much about that first In Service Day (in fact, I honestly don’t know that I remember much from just about ANY In Service Day, but that’s a subject for another post), but what I do remember was something that our Director of Secondary Education, Mr. Paul Murphy, left us with — it’s something that has stuck with me ever since.
Murph, as he is known — lovingly — explained to us that to someone — someone we will probably never even know about — but to someone, we are the absolute best thing that’s happening to them in their day. This really hit me hard, mainly because I truly understood what he meant.
I’m not sure that I can possibly put in to words how difficult things were for me between grades 1-5 — I went to new school after new school, and moved too many times in the middle of the night to count. I can honestly say, however, that I always enjoyed school. I always loved to read and I was very fortunate to have teachers who fostered this. Looking back, I also believe that I was most likely labeled as somebody who was at risk, although I doubt that term was thrown around in 1979. There were teachers I had who were absolutely, positively, the best thing I had in my days.
We are working on Tuesdays with Morrie right now and it always provides the opportunity for us to have some incredibly heartfelt, touching, open conversations about all kinds of things — from how difficult it is to be a teen to death in general. Last semester a student brought in to the conversation the fact that she felt that all people on welfare were freeloaders, that we shouldn’t have to pay for them to do nothing but sit at home all day doing nothing. It was at this point that another student raised his hand and shared that if it weren’t for the help of government assistance — specifically being able to eat two meals at school because of the free and reduced lunch program — he wouldn’t have anything to eat at all on a typical day. Please, let that sink in.
I know what food stamps looked like in the ’70s. I get it. And there’s always somebody who has it worse than we do.
Murph, I’ve been fortunate enough to have students let me know that I was the most important thing in their day; you were right then and you’re right now, more than ever, I think.