Friday, May 05, 2006

Today feels like a good day to remember.

I'm posting these photos because I want to remember myself as I am right now. I decided to do this at 6:00 am when I thought of the way my mom used to take pictures of us kids every year on the first day of school. Today wasn't my first day--instead, it was my last day of teaching as a graduate assistant at BSU. I took these pictures because I was up late grading papers--and in the second photo you can see the lack of sleep in my dry, squinty eye. I took these photos because I wanted to capture my happiness, my tiredness, and my sadness. I wanted to capture this small moment--so that I might remember who I am right now--forever.

I took these photos because I don't ever want to forget how much I love teaching. I want to remember how scary and exciting it was all at once--especially that very first year. I want to remember the way I put a 100 percent into it and how I received a 110 percent in return.

If I look closely, I can see how much I've aged. I can see the way two of the hardest years of my life have caused dark circles and creases around my eyes, how my skin has gotten more pale and is starting to sag a little bit--just like my mom's. But beyond the signs of physical wear and tear...I see something new in my eyes (minus the squint). I see someone who is curious and passionate. I see someone who struggles, but who is deeply in love with her life and the people in it.

I see a lot of things in my eyes that weren't there before. And even though life will continue to transform me with the passage of time, today, for just a minute, I want it to remain the same--if only a photo could capture me whole.

This morning, for our last class everyone read their last essays of the semester. They used the prompt "Real Life" and admitted that it was their favorite assignment all semester. I see why. To be honest, I found myself on the verge of tears a half a dozen times. Their writing was raw and real and heartfelt. It was downright powerful. I ended the class by telling them how much I've enjoyed getting to know them. I told them that, as they read, what I heard was their voice--each unique and incredible. I reminded them that there is more to writing than research papers--and that they each have a story inside of them, that their life is a story and that I hope they will never stop writing, never stop putting words to paper. The air turned into electricity with sparks coming off of 23 bodies. My god, if it had lasted any longer someone might have exploded!

And before they left I found myself surrounded by an entire classroom full of heartfelt handshakes and thank you's and well-wishes. A student wrote: "My one true worry is that this year will end." I can't help but agree. But today is both an end and a beginning.

Twenty or forty or sixty years from now I'll look at these 2 photos--and they will probably still make me cry. Teaching is the best thing I have ever done.

19 comments:

Kristine said...

This post just made me have a big satisfied sigh and want to clap for you. I'm clapping for you. Can you hear it? Hugs and encouragement flowing your way...

Signora B. said...

What a beautiful post !
Why am I crying?

Belle said...

Lovely pictures.

Beautiful writing.

Loralee Choate said...

I am so happy that you are in your dream job. Teaching is the hardest and most needed job out there (Just MO).

The writing is beautiful and so are you.

I also am having some pretty hefty earring envy goin on...

gkgirl said...

ahhhh...
that made me all
choked up
teary
and wanting to clap
and stomp my feet...

the part about the electricity
coming off people to the point
that someone may blow up...
your writing just had the same effect.

your feelings came
straight
through the words.

GreenishLady said...

I just would love to have been one of those young people. I'm sure you have left them with something they will carry through their lives. Wonderful work! Wonderful work! I'm so glad you chose to mark it and let us pause to celebrate that completion with you too. Thank you.

Maggie said...

What a gorgeous post. Your words ring true for so many feelings I have had, too. And wait a second--BSU as in Boise State? I'm from Sandpoint (way up north). That will totally not mean anything if it's not really Boise, but right now I'm totally excited. xo P.S. Morocco = amazing.

J*me said...

Beautiful post!

paris parfait said...

Wonderful pictures and a fabulous, fabulous post! You should be proud of what you've accomplished and how you've encouraged so many others to keep writing. Bravo!

tara dawn said...

What a beautiful post and such beautiful pictures...capturing the raw experience that has culminated in you, today, this day. You touch so many souls every day...no doubt your students, and then us, so many of us, that read your words and feel your emotions. Thank you for the wonderful contributions you have offered to the world...your beauty, your wisdom, your self.
Love to you,
TD

chest of drawers said...

What a beautiful post...I hope I can bring some of that magic into my classes next semester.

Joy Eliz said...

What a fantastic post. I love the idea that you took pictures to remember that moment.

Please don't think I'm ignoring you...I have you on my bloglines and always check in with every new post. I just don't always comment.

:)

melba said...

I was surprised to see that was you. For so long now when I think of Jessie I think of that painting next to your name on your sidebar. It is lovely to see you, hear you. What a wonderful post.

Mark said...

Beautiful.

Tears.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

This post brought tears to my eyes, Jessie...it was just suffused with an essence of passion and beauty. You are simply amazing.

I'm going to be reading this one again. For some reason, I needed to know this today.

megg said...

amazing. that's how I wanted my experience of teaching to be for students. I think I taught the wrong age. You look beauty-full. LOVE to you and good luck as this next phase begins!!

Potato Print said...

Hi Self Portrait,
I've just discovered your two sites. I'm a former French teacher and feel the same magical pull that you describe. I just loved this post. The writing blends so beautifully with the content.

What makes teachers work so hard for their students? Your students are very lucky.

Anonymous said...

Nice.

I'm gonna go teach now.

carol struve said...

jessie--you made me cry when I read this postiing--I remembered how much I learned from YOU! Sorry I've been such an absent communicator, but I think of you often and everyday look at the card you gave to me that is framed and on the bedroom wall. Belated congratulations on your graduation and all of the wonderful and postive changes in your life.
I will be in Bemidji in July, will you be around?