I vividly remember the day I decided to end my decade of service in a busy trauma centre in northern Illinois. I don't recall my young patient's name, but I remember his face and his mother weeping over the loss of her son. And I remember waking my husband after that terrible shift to tell him I was ready to make a change.
Three years and many college courses later, I am now in my first year as a science teacher.
My working day begins at 8am, when I am greeted by students at Springman Middle School in Glenview, Illinois. A building filled with so many young people is a fascinating place and I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to help shape them into the adults they will become. When my students ask what my dream job is, I reply: "I'm living it." And I am, every day.
Students file into my classroom at 8.25am and we listen to the morning announcements and say the Pledge of Allegiance. We then have 40 minutes to explore a topic. Currently we are investigating mammalian heart anatomy. We started with diagrams, models and videos, and today we are dissecting calves' hearts purchased at my local butcher.
Holding a chilled heart in my gloved hands, guiding students' identification of ventricles and vessels, I grin at the realisation that I am immersed in a hub of vitality. I am delighted by the 14-year-olds who find fascination and wonder in this 3lbs of muscle and connective tissue - this amazing pump that pushes blood through veins. As the students dare each other to touch the muscle and put a finger through the aorta into the right atrium, I get goosebumps. Their giggles and aahs are invigorating.
At the end of the lesson, I wish my students a great day and send them off in search of new learning. For a moment my classroom is quiet. Greeting my next class at the door, I am thrilled by their enthusiasm as they say: "We heard you have hearts!" When they are excited to be here, it makes filling their craniums with knowledge that much easier.
Because of the hearts in my fridge, I can entice the students to work well for our 70-minute block. They know that when we have completed our lesson on the phases of matter, they can take turns holding a heart in their hands. Two of the boys in the class watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom over the weekend, but their request to recreate that scene is denied.
After three rotations, much admiration and a few selfies with the hearts, it's 3pm and time to pack up and head home. On my way to the expressway, I pull to the right to let an ambulance pass. Not too long ago, the sirens and lights would have set my heart racing. Now, I am calm and wish the patient well. I drive home to my family and the delight of grading students' work. I am a science teacher and I love my job.
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