Guest Post from Dorina Sackman, FL 2014 Teacher of the Year

I recently moved into a new house. It is in a quiet neighborhood consisting of homes with lawns and landscaping so perfectly manicured, it almost looks as if they are painted onto the properties. Being the new kid on the block, I know I have a lot of work to do on my not-so-lovely land but I live by the phrase “incremental is monumental”. Therefore, I am sure my curious neighbors are appreciative of my weekend green-thumbed attempts to emulate their HGTV “after photo” homes. From my efforts, folks politely began introducing themselves, welcoming me into “their” neighborhood. However, each family that came by with their genuine salutations also came with inquiring minds that always asked the same, shall I say…forward questions, “How can you stand living in this house with the backyard being an elementary school? I mean, doesn’t that drive you crazy hearing those kids screaming and yelling every day?” “Those loud buzzers going off every hour?” “That old air conditioner going on and off like a train passing through?” “And those teachers? Ugh! Those teachers and their voices belting out ‘Jimmy?! Sarah? Talisha!?’ Ugh!” “What about those custodians yelling to each other on radios and walkie talkies in Spanish… or whatever language they speak?” And how can you stand that all of it goes on until 5 o’clock when day care is over?!” “How do you stand it, Dorina?” Before I knew it, a group of my new neighbors, standing with dogs on leashes and kids in strollers on my freshly weeded walkway engaged in a “Complaint Fest” of the noise pollution that is…a public elementary school.

It is a school that is directly behind my home, where, when sitting outside on the screened in patio, I can see the gridded orange roofs of the building meshing with the lush, green Florida plant life. Every morning, with the bright sun as my visual alarm clock through my bare window, I wake up and go outside with my cat and coffee. We sit and watch the dew glisten on top of the screened in porch like our own Swarovski display as each drop slowly falls into the pool. It is picturesque and I need no music for this morning ritual. This is because I am a teacher. The very things about which my new friends are complaining are the familiar and comforting melodies a teacher hears every single.day. So as their dialogue continued, my thoughts about where I live surrounded me, muting their negativity and making me smile contently.

My backyard is an elementary school where the sounds of children laughing, talking, giggling is not only a symphony in a teacher’s ears but the very sound that fuels their energy to continue to do what educators do so well. The buzzers are a teacher’s queues to ensure our children are being taught every subject in a fun, orderly, and timely manner. The air conditioner is like a soothing fan at night, relaxing sound ensuring teachers that they (and their colleagues way over in those portables) have electricity and cool air blowing in their second homes…their classrooms. The teachers “screaming” students’ names are safety nets and life jackets that let me know children are being accounted for, cared for, protected and loved. The custodial staff, in their melodious Spanish or any other beautiful language is the duets or quartets of individuals holding down the fort, without whom, that noisy a/c would be working or those gates locked and secured so our children are safe. And this continuous song, on repeat until 5 pm or even longer, is the reassurance that children are not alone, rather, in the best hands…a teacher’s hands, whilst their parents are hard at work making sure they have the means to provide for their children. It is all the pieces, the instruments, the melodies and the players that make up this incredible sound I call, education.

I am quickly drawn back to my freshly weeded walkway, and my positive thoughts interrupted by, “So, Dorina? Tell us. How DO you live behind an elementary school?” I smiled, took off my gardening gloves, wiped my brow of the sweat and dirt symbolizing my successful Saturday morning of my landscaping efforts, and said, “I have had the honor of being selected as Florida’s State Teacher of the Year. This year I will not be in a classroom educating our Florida children. When not travelling around the state as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador to Education, I will be working from my home office, the back room of my house that faces the school, the orange roof, and the a/c unit. To me, all of which you complained about is my connection to my heart and soul, my happiness, what I love the most in this world besides chocolate and my family…being a teacher.

So, my new friends, I CHOSE this house for its exact location. I hope one morning you will have coffee with me in my backyard, see the sun through the Florida trees and orange roof of the school, see the crystals on my screen, and hear the beautiful sounds through the heart and ears of a teacher. After all, the music we hear every day lives in our hearts …right there with our students.
Have a great year, everyone! May you enjoy the everyday melodies of being a teacher and B.E.L.I.E.V.E.

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