How much easier would life be to navigate if we could predict the future or make decisions with a simple shake of one of those Magic 8 Balls? If that were possible, I’d be a rich veterinarian living in a mansion on a horse ranch and driving a Porsche.
But, sadly, such is not the case.
So, we maneuver through our lives in baby steps, paying close attention to the signs along the way that point us in the right direction. For Tatum Ranew, a teacher at Wynnton Arts Academy, her signs started in 1999 when she was in the fifth grade.
Her teacher asked the class to complete a questionnaire about their futures and fill a time capsule full of meaningful things that would be opened when each student graduated from college. For the young Tatum, that was 2012, the end of a roller coaster college career full of fluctuating choices of majors, most of which were far from the public school classroom. But as her destiny would have it, Tatum finally chose early childhood education, and retrospection certainly would reveal those clear signs along the way – clear signs that were sealed tightly 13 years prior in a fifth grade time capsule.
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Packed under a Cher CD, beaded necklaces, and some silly trinkets was the questionnaire scribbled in her 10-year-old’s handwriting. Her 1999 predictions outlined a prosperous career as a kindergarten teacher making $500,000. I can only imagine the relief Mrs. Ranew felt when she received such an affirmation of her career choice! Oh, the confirmation she must have felt when the diploma in her left hand was confirmed by the fat-penciled scribbles of the younger version of herself! And I bet she giggled a little at the innocently hopeful salary she knew she would never get.
But, Mrs. Ranew’s affirmations that she made the right choice weren’t just found in an old time capsule. They are found in the faces of her students. You see, Mrs. Ranew was destined to be the kind of teacher we long for our children to have – a relationship-building, experience-making teacher who understands the importance of her role in developing young minds. And she got those qualities from her momma.
Her momma instilled in her children the importance of creating memories. At Christmas, Santa didn’t just place a few presents under the tree. He tracked soot all over the living room floor. And the Tooth Fairy didn’t just take a tooth and leave a few coins. She sprinkled glitter on their pillows. So for Tatum Ranew, she aims to create powerful experiences for her students that will make learning matter to them.
It’s those pivotal moments that not only foster learning for students, but for teachers as well. As in any profession, day-to-day bumps in the road have the potential to derail destinies and leave us wondering if we made the right career choice, but when we focus on relationships and magical experiences, we realize we are exactly in the right place at the right time.
For our fearless elementary teacher during her first year in the classroom, all of the many challenges of teaching certainly caused her to second-guess that fifth-grade prophesy and wish desperately for that $500,000 paycheck. However, she could not escape the thrill and satisfaction of helping foster confidence in the forgotten, success in the downtrodden, and learning in the masses. And so, she stayed.
And when teachers yield to the call and follow the signs leading to the local public school, everyone wins. So, to Mrs. Ranew and the many teachers who work tirelessly to create memories for our kids, thank you for making learning magical. (Sure wish we could get you that $500,000!)
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus, Georgia. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.