another school year ends. another summer begins. it's hard for me to believe that i'm finishing a full decade of teaching. at twenty-one, i had my first full classroom of suspicious-eyed students at a smaller high school in central florida. determined to be as powerful as my hard-nosed british high school math teacher was, i refused to let those kids belittle my mission. those 'kids' from my early days are now in their late twenties and i'm proud to say that although a couple of them tried, i never let them break me.
just hearing myself say 'ten years' nearly knocks me off my feet. in many ways it feels like if i look over my shoulder, i can still see that starter classrom, still hear the twang in my old principal's voice on the intercom, still taste the joy of my first student's 'thank you' as sweetly as i did all those years ago.
a decade is practically one third of my life, but it is far from when i began working. at the age of thirteen, my dad, always industrious with a new invention or idea in his back pocket, decided to open a mini-donut booth at our local flea market. being that it would only operate on weekends, it started as a family affair. my older sister and i would sell dozens of dozens of these hot, freshly cooked tiny donuts to onlookers mesmerized by the donut machine. it was a powdered and cinnamon sugar oasis for the customers. for me, it was a hot, cranky, smelly job. nevertheless, i loved getting paid to do it and after almost six years (my entire adolescence), it just became part of my life. weekdays consisted of calculators and books and weekends were for hot oil and batter.
before you worry about me losing precious free time in my youth, let me assure you that i wouldn't trade the experience for anything. you see, this first job taught me perseverance, responsibility and left no room for laziness. one tragic day, i got a phone call from my mom telling me that the entire flea market had burned to the ground and my family lost their little business. i lost my job.
my college years were then upon me and once again, i traded many free hours for working hours at a book store. that was followed by a couple of years at a local record store until i graduated and started teaching. since the age of thirteen, i have never been without work and work has never been without me. i'm proud of this fact and i think that hard work is somewhere in my genetics. my dad is the hardest working man i know. he's been in the construction industry his whole life where his hands were callused early on and the hot florida sun has darkened his skin over the years as proof of his labor. forty hour work weeks are chump change for him.
whenever i think of work ethic, i think of my daddy. he will do whatever it takes for his family and has always been so generous with his earnings. he, like most of us, would love to have some lazy days, but he rarely does. so in saying goodbye to my tenth year teaching and saying hello to the next fifteen or so, i'm reminded that hard work really is a source of pride.