shortly after 9/11, my father got laid off from his job. all his life he had been in IT, project management, and other such jobs in the corporate world.

i came home from school one day, shortly after he had lost his job, and he asked me: “emily, what do you see my doing with my career?”
and i said: “something that makes a lot of money.”
“no, really. what profession would you choose for me?”
i replied: “you’re not going to be a teacher? are you?”
you see, anyone that knows my dad knows that he is and has always been a teacher. it’s in his bones and certainly in his heart. it’s the way he raised my brother and i; everything was a learning opportunity. and in the fun way. where you don’t even know you’re learning. it’s in the way he coached our sports teams and trained his little league umpires. in the way he interacted with the neighborhood kids and with our friends throughout the years.
so he went back to school. and waited tables at my mom’s friend’s restaurant for money. and then he became a teacher. a middle school earth science teacher. who wants that job? he did.
and man, does he do a bang-up job. those 8th graders LOVE him. and i remember myself in 8th grade. i was annoying. and stubborn. and gave my teachers a really hard time. and the teachers usually didn’t know what to do with me. or with the other kids going through their awkward middle school years fraught with growing pains, mean girls, cliques, smelly boys and learning to deal with authority.
but he’s so good with them. i think it’s because he loves them so much. he’s not there for himself. he’s one of the rare ones left that is there because and for the kids. he trusts and respects and loves his kids and knows that for some of them, all the trust and respect and love they’re gonna get that day might just be from only him. and–it’s been so cool to see–they trust and respect and love him back. sure, he has trouble-makers and divas. but he doesn’t take it personally; he isn’t threatened by middle school antics — he knows that’s just what they are.
i am so proud of him. he may not make a ton of money like i had hoped when i was a snot-faced high schooler. but he is so happy and fulfilled and has chosen a career that really honors his gifts. it’s what i hope for jp and myself: that we will take the risks to live a life that is full because we we pursued our passion, not a paycheck.
my dad writes thoughts on education and teaching here: teach fearlessly. please check it out and tell him hello!

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