What I should have said

It was a warm fall day during my seventh grade year. A few friends and I decided to linger after school to watch the boys football team practice. I was sporting a new pair of orange Nike basketball shorts that I was especially proud of. A few of us stood at the fence, our noses pressed to the chain link fence separating us from 60 pubescent, stinky boys when I was caught off guard and soon found my orange Nike shorts now bunched around my ankles. I had been depantsed...in front of the ENTIRE 7th and 8th grade boys football team. I played it cool, of course, and casually hiked up my britches like it was no big thing. Then, I sprinted after my depantser like it was no big thing. This was my most embarrassing moment...until today.

This afternoon I was honored at the state capital with a teaching award that I actually received in the fall. The organization who gave the award had their big ceremony today, so they invited all the award winners for the year so they could re-present the awards. The guy who organized it all mentioned in his email that I could say a few things if I wanted. I assumed it would be an intimate gathering of 15-20 teachers, most of whom I knew, so I didn't put much thought into the event. When Nate and I arrived, though, the room was filled with kids and their parents, two fairly famous poets, and several teachers. I had forgotten that this event also doubled as an awards ceremony for a student poetry contest. There were WAY more people here than I imagined. Plus, the room was beautiful and felt formal...and suddenly this thing I wasn't worried about, became increasingly frightening.

You see, I took my public speaking course as an independent study at a community college because I'm so terrified of it. In high school, I stumbled, sweated, and shook through every speech. And the older I get, the more my phobia of the act grows. Scanning the program, I noticed that I was first up out of all the teachers to receive an award. I quickly began thinking of things to say when I went up to get my award, and all I could think of saying was, "Teaching is cool." Who says that?!? I thought and thought, and still had nothing. Suddenly I heard my name called. I walked to the front of the room to receive the award; the director stepped away from the mic, and said, "Feel free to say a few words." I took a step toward the mic--still far enough away from it, looked at the crowd, and suddenly went blank. About fifteen awkward seconds passed where I just stared into the crowd. Then I muttered, "Nah, I'm good." The director laughed and made some joke about how it's a good thing I'm not a speech teacher. Mortified, I slinked back to my chair, my cheeks hot from embarrassment. Of course, the other teachers being recognized casually sauntered up to receive their awards sharing a few words of wisdom with us, leaving me feeling like the biggest idiot in the room.

Epic fail.

I just hope the people in attendance today didn't think I was the most ungrateful teacher on the planet; hopefully they saw my nerves and awkwardness and forgave me for my lack of eloquence.

Now that I've had some time to think about it all, though, here's what I should have said:

"I'll keep this brief since microphones and public speaking terrify me, but I'd like to first thank all the students I've had in Grant, Ogallala, and Gretna who have taught me what it really means to be a teacher. They taught me (and still teach me) that teaching is more about relationships than about testing and grades. Next, I'd like to thank the teachers who have helped shape me into the teacher I am today. My husband, Nate--a fellow teacher--, and my colleagues in the Nebraska Writing Project remind me to teach with passion and be a voice for students and teachers. Thanks for the honor."

Of course, it's easy to think of this 8 hours later from behind a computer...

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