Above: Leslie Lee with former students (members of the EGHS Class of 2021) during their return to Hanaford during Senior Week.
After all the spicy heat, in a blink of an eye, you get to the meat of why you are an educator
Teaching is a fickle friend. And it takes a certain kind of day to remind myself of why I do what I do. Earlier this month the seniors from East Greenwich High School came back to Hanaford to do one last walk through their alma mater. And it was bittersweet.
I’ve decided that teaching is very similar to eating buffalo wings. Sounds weird, I know, but hear me out….
I love buffalo wings. I was first introduced to them my freshman year of college. Had my first taste at the Mews Tavern down in Wakefield. What an experience.
Now, I’m not crazy. I’m not the thermonuclear burn-your-face-off type of buffalo wing eater, but I do like a little kick.
Taking your first bite into a spicy, zesty wing is torture. It’s hot, your nose starts to run, your eyes start to water and you find yourself asking the question, “Why am I doing this? How is this enjoyable? How is this fun?” There seems to be a lot of pain and misery with that first bite. But then, the spiciness fades and things seem to cool down. All of a sudden, you are able to enjoy the flavors of the blue cheese melding together with the spices and on the skin crunching against the tender meat on the bone. Ahhh yes, you get to the texture of that meat and all is well with the world. A symphony of tastes being celebrated on your tongue. You quickly forget the torture you had to go through to get to this masterpiece of deliciousness. It’s such a phenomenal experience that you reach down for another one!
Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you after 24 years of teaching, the world of education is very similar.
That first bite can sting. The day-to-day routine of teaching can bring a lot of heat and sometimes irritation. The data-driven curriculum can really burn us making our eyes water and nose run when our kids are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Encouraging, mostly begging, my kids to practice their music can really take a toll on my patience because I know for a fact with just little application and practice they can turn squeaks into songs.
But, then, a day like that day earlier this month occurs and everything starts to cool things down.
After all the struggles of getting through the mundane day-to-day practices and methods, you finally see how all the flavors have come together to create a composition of promise, achievement, optimism, and hope. You forget about all the spicy heat you go through each year and all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, you get to the meat of why you are an educator. You see how your kids have grown, matured, and transformed into these lovely young adults who are now about to embark on their own adventure into adulthood while at the same time, you see those fifth grade faces that you had at one time, which didn’t seem that long ago.
It’s because of this, it’s inevitable you go back to teaching year after year.
To the newly graduated Class of 2021 – I wish you all the best life has to offer. Thank you for reminding me why I do what I do. The world is your oyster, or in this case buffalo wing, so make sure you take a big bite!
Leslie Lee is a music teacher in the East Greenwich schools.