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Within My Reach

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Every year the fifth graders at my daughter's school go on a two night camping trip. It used to seem so far away. But this year my daughter is in fifth grade. And yesterday she left with her classmates. I know she will have a great time. It is a trip I have taken several times when I taught fifth grade at her school.

Students are not allowed to take cell phones or any type of electronic device. The idea is for the kids to bond and become one with nature. I get all of that. But...

I miss my daughter and it has only been one night. It is not as if we haven't spent nights away from each other. We have. But we have always been able to at least say goodnight to one another. Always. But not last night. And not tonight either.

I think the most difficult part is not knowing how she is doing.

She's probably happy and having a blast.

But what if she's not?

I can't reach her.

All the more reason to reach her when she is with me. My daughter turned eleven not that long ago and yes she is different than she was when she was ten. But then again I am different at forty-six than I was at forty-five. We have our moments and we have our battles.

Damn I love that girl. I was thirty-five when she was born and I haven't been the same since. And just when I thought my heart couldn't fit any more, her brother came along and I learned otherwise. But he is downstairs watching tv. And she is not. I don't what she is doing. I hope she is happy.

I am putting these words down so that the next time I get angry with her. The next time I ... wish she would just stop talking. Because she couldn't possibly know what she is saying. Or, and this one hurts the most, I have expended all of my patience on children that are not my own but that I care for during the day. So that by the time I walk through my front door, I have none left.

I must think back to this moment when I wish I could call her. Would give anything to call her. Say good night. Tell her I love her. I know, those of you with kids in college tell me to be ready. Enjoy these days. Time goes by fast. I don't want to hear it. I know you mean well, but let me have my time now and teach my how to deal with later, later.

If I've learned anything from these two nights it's that now is my window. The time that I can truly have an impact on my daughter. And that when I'm with her I need to be with her. Because there will come a time when I can't. No matter how hard I stretch, I still won't be able to reach her.

The same goes for our students. We have them now. With us. Yes, there are days when we wish they weren't. And yes we often cherish our time spent away from those we spend our days with.

But what if I told you that the boy in your class today will be in prison in ten years? Maybe you wouldn't be surprised, you'd say that you saw it coming. But what would you do differently tomorrow if you knew there was a chance that you could help rewrite his Lifescript?

And what if I told you that the girl in your class today will commit suicide in ten years? Did you see it coming? What would you do differently tomorrow if you knew there was a chance that you could help rewrite her Lifescript?

We have this power. The power to take ten minutes away from math and spend it on listening and learning about what matters to our students. I know we can do this. I know because it's being done already.

We still have a chance to make a difference. Yes, it's hard as Hell and yes sometimes we feel as if we are beating our heads up against a F!&$ing wall!

I get it. Trust me I do.

But it's time to dig.

And it's time to grind.

And it's time to make each moment count.

Because there will come a time when they are out of our reach.

But that time is not now.

I can't wait to see my daughter tomorrow!

I can't wait until she is once again within my reach.


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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

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Guest Saturday, 23 February 2019