After being chosen as an alternate for the spring residency program for educators at George Washington's Mount Vernon (and not getting the call to replace any other participants), I have now applied for the summer program. Every time I have to turn in something involving writing, I like to rewrite and revise. It's also a good time to edit (ugh).
I did find an error in the previous application, so I repaired it. I also completely revamped the introductory paragraphs to make it more personal and to better reflect my own experiences.
From a writer's point of view, this was a welcome challenge. I started by adding another 150 words to the essay before trimming it by 150 words for the final application. I have come to enjoy this challenge that many people would consider impossible.
The personal essay portion of the application is just one of the components required for consideration.
The rafters of our old schoolhouse rattled and groaned. We saw the black plume of smoke from a truck bomb detonated just 4½ miles away. As lead teacher, I locked down the building and consoled students, teachers, and parents. The terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City greatly changed and affected my life and teaching.
Sixteen years later, an EF5 tornado carved a deep path through my current city of Joplin, Missouri. I helped coordinate relief efforts and hugged more strangers that summer than any point in my life. Families lost every tangible possession. One student lost his only parent, and overcame a negligible probability of survival himself.
After each event, my classrooms earned a reputation for having an exemplary family relationship. I support that relationship through manners and high expectations, embracing error, developing solutions, struggling together, and discovering truth.
Twenty-five years ago, through tears, the grandmother of a student claimed I was the only calm male influence for her grandson. To a reflective, conscientious educator, that responsibility hits hard, pressing on my shoulders as I absorb their weight. I realize tomorrow’s family, community, and nation leaders are in my classroom today!
George Washington influenced uneasy times. His strength and demeanor exposed leadership and decision-making abilities amidst confusion and extraordinary events. He weighed risks, led boldly, and calmed a room. He sought civility and decency with high, intrepid standards. I aspire to be that resolute peacekeeper for stakeholders in our school.
Missouri now places American Revolutionary history into fourth grade. I am excited to have opportunities to share my passion for the era with students. While I graze the surface of our nation’s founding with presentations about Missouri’s pre-statehood story, I yearn for richer, deeper understanding about life during this period. I long to know President Washington. I must meet him, sit with him, share a meal with him.
To demonstrate culture, character, and manner, I bring our first president to life. As historians, my students collaboratively struggle with material and process. They feel jubilations of success only when they respectfully wrestle difficult decisions with innovative thinking to unearth startling solutions. When that includes replicating 18th century scenarios, we do it. Our continuing quest to create a real, relevant, and captivating classroom does not prepare students for future classes; it prepares them for life. Students gather information, learn from failure, and build systems to serve future generations. By identifying mistakes and responses from the past, they are better equipped to face genuine issues.
When my teacher-peers curiously spy through our window or click on our website, they don’t see isolated topics, changing every 20 minutes or breaking on a regular schedule. They see us encountering real, exciting situations, shattering the factory mold of school. We time travel!
Like Washington, we learn to approach, communicate, and react with our acquaintances. At day’s end, I enjoy the satisfying fatigue resulting from empowering adults and children with the mettle for success and encouraging educators, through conversations, observations, and formal or electronic presentations, to do likewise.