Riding High

Okay, here I sit at 6AM in the morning at the Rochester Airport with less than two hours sleep and I am not tired at all.  You would think that after the week/month/year that i have had, my body would just shut down for a month and demand that I relax.  I pride myself on my ability to just sit back and relax at the drop of a hat.  Yet I have not been able to do that much this year.  You see, as I keep telling people, I am having a good year.  every time I turn around something new and amazing happens to me or the people close to me.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it does my fall will be great.  But, for now I plan on living and acting like the nine year old boy who keeps running back and forth through the terminal in front of me.  He goes from the windows on one side of the concourse to the other looking for planes landing or taking off.  Right now, he is five feet away from me with his nose pressed up against the glass and his hands shading his face, wildly calling his less excited twelve year old brother (who is obviously trying to look calm, coll and adult abou this experience but is leaking excitement like an overfilled hotdog with everything) to come look at the lane revving ts engine.  I am this boy right now.  My childhood dreams are coming true.  I am going to NASA’s MESSENGER Mission Operations Center for a major spacecraft event.  I am so excited that as I wrote that last sentence, I started seeing the page through tears.  I cannot believe it.  The only thing I can compare it to, is the births of my daughters or my wedding day. But I didn’t cry then, so why am i tearing up now?

Maybe it’s because I thought I left my NASA dreams behind when I decided a week before my college graduation that I would not persue my goal of becoming an astrophysicist.  I decided to become a teacher instead.  So many people have asked me “why?” over the past 24 years.  I still cannot answer why I made that decision.  I only know that I have never regretted making it.  Not Once.  Not when all my professors tried talking me out of it.  Not when EVERY teacher at the school where i student taught used lunchtime to talk me out of going into teaching.  Not when I stupidly boasted as an answer “I’ll be starting at $21K”  to a teacher who had asked how much money I thought I would be making as a starting teacher.  (He then replied that he had been teaching for 11 years and just cleared $19K.) @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>  Quitting never entered my mind when i started teaching in the city of Rochester and watched many new teachers fall by the wayside.  I never questioned whether I would go back to the classroom when, five years into teaching, I came down with cancer, lost the roof of my mouth, and had to learn how to speak again. I was back in the classroom only a few months after students broke my back – albeit I had a full body brace and a cane, but I was back where I needed to be. In 23 years of teaching, the classroom has been a place where I come alive and share my excitement and wonder with my students. I don’t know how effective I have been. I don’t think I have inspired any astronomers or physicists, but I know I have shared mself with thousands of students and I can only hope that I had some tiny impact on them.

So it is with that in mind that I sit here with ants in my pants (showing off my age with that comment.) I have not had a moment to think a rational thought all week. I should be running on empt right now but my brain won’t let me stop. It has been such a busy week doing my normal teaching duties in addition to talking to the media, preparing lesson plans, meeting with students to explain on an individual basis how projectile motion works, shopping for the trip, packing for the trip, and finding out that my team got accepted for the second round of writing for a $1.5 million dollar NASA grant. I was so busy that I did not take time to get excited that I was awarded this years Science Teachers Association of New York State Excellence in Teaching Award for High School. It is a huge honor and yet, I have not had time to get excited about it. My whole world has been this trip.

I get to fulfill my dream. I get to work with people from NASA. I get to be part of the team that sees part of the universe which has never before been seen by human eyes.

I am having a good year.


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