Being surrounded by all these amazing people, I found myself feeling like I didn’t belong. When I would get introduced to someone, I kept saying, “I’m just a teacher.” Being introduced to Linda Urban, Candace Flemming, Kirby Larson, and Jennifer Holm was nerve racking. I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of those authors wins at least a Newbery honor this year. What are they doing shaking my hand and giving me hugs? I’m just a teacher. Donalyn Miller, who I think of as one of the best teacher on the planet actually wants to hang out with me. I don’t get it. I’m just a teacher.
When Jennifer Holm saw me wearing my Babymouse t-shirt she actually smiled, jumped out of her seat, and ran up and hugged me. Why is she hugging me? I’m just a teacher.
One of my heros, Kate Messner, introduced me to Linda Urban. Linda actually knew who I was. She isn’t even on Twitter. This totally blew my mind. We chatted a bit, and the whole time all I could think was: I’m just a teacher. Why does she know who I am?
My self doubting built to its climax at the Random House Author Dinner Saturday night. Jennifer Holm got me invited and I was nervous. I kept emailing her and asking her what I should wear (I’m not the type of guy that usually worries about what he wears). Once I got to the restaurant I walked around for about 10 minutes looking for Jenni. I kept getting more and more nervous. Why I am here? Why did Jenni invite me? This doesn’t feel right. I’m just a teacher. Finally, I asked a man at the door about the Random House Dinner, and he quickly ushered me to where I needed to be.
Before dinner started, I saw Candace Fleming standing and talking on the other side of the room. I quickly positioned myself in the opposite corner. A wonderful Random House person seemed to sense my nerves. She came over and chatted with me. She saw me keep peaking over at Candace. She asked me if I would like to be introduced to Candace. That was the easiest question anyone asked me all weekend. “Absolutely not,” shot out of my mouth. She smiled and walked over to Candace. Crap, I knew where this was going. The next thing I knew, Candace was walking over towards me. Okay, so now I am the most nervous wreck I have ever been in my life. Candace Fleming is heading my way. The lovely Random House people introduced us. We shook hands, I am completely awkward, and I manage to get in a couple “I’m just a teacher” comments. Thankfully, we are asked to take our seats for dinner, before I can do any more damage.
During dinner I’m talking with Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, and college professor/former member of the Newbery committee, Nancy Johnson. I was actually starting to feel pretty good. Jenni and Kirby are two of the most lovely people in the world. They made me actually start to settle down a bit, but then it came out, “I’m just a teacher.”
Then all heck broke loose. Nancy Johnson jumped all over me. “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. You are not “just a teacher”. You are someone that truly cares about kids and books!” she said to me almost shouting. My mouth fell to the floor. She continued, “You are part of the most important profession on the planet. You need to respect yourself, and start to understand that what you do is awesome (okay, awesome is my word, but she said something like that)!” Holy crap. It was intense.
My world was rocked. She was right. I am not “just a teacher”. “I am a teacher” and that is a lot different than being “just a teacher”. We live in a world today where politicians, community members, and the media often look at us a second class citizens. They want to take our jobs, our benefits, our pay, and our respect. It is so important that we don’t see ourselves as just teachers. We need to see ourselves as part of the most important profession on the planet. Our profession includes some of the best thinkers, hardest workers, and most caring individuals in the world. I am proud to be, a teacher.
– Kathy Davis