By Erinn Williams / OC Monitor Community Contributor
I can vividly remember my first days working in public school. I was an ambitious 24-year-old college dropout. I had big dreams, but life had gotten in the way, and habits and hang ups blocked many a blessing.
I was eager, excited, and clueless. Preschool was my entry point, and I was safe as an assistant. I was proficient in many tasks. Copying, decorating, washing hands, opening milks, adjusting tiny backpack straps, all of it came like second nature after a while. School culture was fast paced, fun, and exhausting all the same. Countless naps came around 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon and daily it seemed.
I was a good employee, I worked a job I enjoyed, and I was prepared to learn a skill. I wasn’t prepared, however, to be forever changed. My world would be altered in such a way that my job seldom ended after I clocked out.
I can’t count the nights I lie in bed worrying, pondering and praying over students who most likely didn’t have a hot meal to go home to. Some of those precious faces I greeted each morning weren’t wearing socks, had dirty matted hair, and Mommy was just a distant memory.
I no longer just worked a job, I had a purpose. As the years progressed, I held the title as coach, mentor, and friend to some remarkable young girls. Cheerleading consumed my afternoons after my school day had ended. Some of my ladies had faced far more than most adults can fathom, and all before 6th grade.
This wasn’t a job, I discovered a calling.
Fast forward 10 years, I am finally finishing my teaching degree at 33 years old. It took a lot of courage, many years working multiple evening hours in addition to my “job” and determination to be in the position I’m in now.
I stepped foot into a brand new elementary last Wednesday working that same “job.” I tie shoes, open milks, dry tears and I still adjust tiny backpack straps. Although I’ve not met all the students I’m blessed to have this year, I have looked into the eyes of some familiar situations.
My prayer, to all who darken the doors of the public-school realm, is, never lose sight of the “job,” but forever hold dear the power of the purpose and the calling. Every piece of the puzzle from the custodian to the bus driver can uplift a wounded child and empower them to rise above the current trials in their path. Kindness is the most valuable tool to possess to mend a broken spirit.
May you plan, pray and play throughout this school year, and push the most vulnerable to succeed. I’ll keep opening milk cartons in the morning. When I have a classroom of my own, I’ll remember it was the days of opening those milks that made me the teacher I will become.
It’s not just a “job,” the purpose and the calling make it a gift, one to be appreciated well beyond August and enduring past July. To teach, is to touch a life they say, but the life is what touches the teacher.
Erinn Williams hails from Whitley County in the heart of Southeastern Kentucky, and now resides in Owensboro with her husband, Seth. She is an Elementary Education major, working this fall in the Daviess County Public Schools as a preschool educator. Erinn is actively involved as a volunteer for the Bill Monroe Foundation at the Bill Monroe Homeplace in Rosine and recently served as the Kids Zone Coordinator for ROMP in Owensboro. Bluegrass runs deep within her roots, as she comes from a long line of musicians, and is an aspiring mandolin player. She is active in her church and in the recovery community. Erinn loves the outdoors, traveling with her husband, cooking, and appreciates a fresh glass of lemonade. She has a passion for writing, spreading hope through her faith, and being with family and friends.