Teaching Inspires Teachers

My students say things to me about my job all the time.  ALL THE TIME.When I am quieting down the class and explaining something they don’t want to do (like in-class essay writing):  “Man, Mrs. Sluiter, I would hate to have to grade all our papers. Being a teacher must suck.” When a student says something totally off-topic and ridiculous: “Dude. I could NOT do your job.” When I explain something, ask if there are any questions, and start to tell students to get to it and a hand goes up and asks, ‘Wait. What are we doing?’: “How do you deal with this all day, Mrs. Sluiter? I could NOT do your job.”

There are times though, when I’m talking one-on-one with students after school or between classes or whenever, and there are those who say, “I think I want to go into teaching.” Some even go on to say, “Because of you, Mrs. Sluiter.”

I think back to why I became a teacher and it was also because of the teachers in my life. No one in my family is or was a teacher; so I wasn’t following in anyone’s footsteps.

While I knew I had the gift of teaching very early in my life, it wasn’t until high school that the teachers I had helped me understand that I was made to be a teacher.

I bet if you ask any teacher they will tell you they were inspired and influenced by at least one other teacher. I don’t know any stories about choosing teaching that didn’t somehow include a teacher being a positive presence in their life. There were many, many great teachers in my life.

Mrs. Eaton, my Kindergarten teacher fostered my love of school from the get-go.

Mrs. Larson, my elementary school librarian, encouraged my love of reading.

Mr. Ambrose, my fifth grade teacher, was the first male teacher I ever had and pushed me in my writing.

Ms. Wheeler, my 7th grade math teacher, was hilarious and never judged me for not being the best math student, but believed I could do it anyway.

Mrs. Barnesse, my 7th grade English teacher, taught me that teachers are friends as she and Ms. Wheeler routinely called each other on the PA and razzed each other making us all giggle.

Mr. Gayler, my freshman Geometry teacher, taught me that teaching can be your forever career.

Mrs. Gase, my freshman English teacher and my sophomore Grammar/Vocab teacher taught me that not every teacher is going to like me even if I am smart. (And I am sure that all the kids who make my eye twitch are karma’s way of paying me back for making her eye twitch on the daily).

Mr. Jansen, my sophomore Advanced Algebra, junior Functions, Stats, and Trig, junior physics, and senior pre-calc teacher taught me that teachers can even like students who are just not good at their subjects.

Mrs. Bengelink, my junior American Lit teacher, taught me that I rocked at English class.

Mr. Walker, my high school band director, taught me that I am awesome and that I am a true leader.

Mr. Torgerson, my senior Brit Lit teacher, taught me that reading and then talking about reading can be a job…an awesome one.

Dr. Alan Webb, my prof for Teaching Literature taught me that teaching high schoolers about literature can change attitudes, lives, and the world.

Dr. Ellen Brinkley, the head of the Third Coast Writing Project and my faculty reader for my Master’s Degree Capstone Project, taught me that writing can change attitudes, lives, and the world.

It was all of these teachers who had me as a student along with all the teachers I have worked with and gotten to know in my decade of teaching that encourage me in my profession. I love my students and they amaze me daily, but if it wasn’t for the teachers in my life, I wouldn’t be in this career. When students tell me they want to become a teacher, or when I get word that past students have become teachers, I smile.

To know that I might be included on their lists of teachers who are the reason they are in front of a classroom is the ultimate compliment.


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Love Notes

Last week I was sick.  And tired.  And sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And then I got some mail.

strength & hope

It turns out Elizabeth of The Writer Revived nominated me as a blogger who has gone through a load of crap and who she wanted to sent a little strength & hope to.

I blogged about losing our niece, Arabella, last month.  It was awful and hard and we are still finding fresh ways to hurt at each turn in the road.  Getting these cards from Elizabeth and the Say Please Lunchbox Love products didn’t just make me smile, but they reminded me of how far a kind word can go.

Strength & Hope

As I turned over each of these cards in my hands, I remembered my lowest times and what brought the pieces of light that let me know the tunnel had an end.

All of those bright spots had to do with thoughtful words and unasked for deeds.

A simple text, a quick message on facebook, a tweet, a card just to say, “I’m thinking of you” or “You are amazing” were enough to give me an extra push to keep going when all I wanted to do was quit.

I think that is what I like most about these cards.  You can stick them with a little gift, or just insert them anonymously into someone’s life for a pick-me-up.

strength & hope

Each of these cards also has an encouraging quote on the back. I love this almost as much as I love the simple words on the front. I tend to put quotes everywhere. They remind me to hold on.

I am so thankful Elizabeth chose me to pass these along to.  The goal of Lunchbox Love is to start a chain that will touch the lives of those who need it most, so I get to send a set on to someone too to spread the love.

strength & hope

Because getting a card like this when you feel like your world is in a constant state of crazy? Well it’s healing.

Oh, and Lunchbox Love has sets for kids, teens, holidays, and more. They are pretty cool.

I might have to stock up. I like to spread love.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. Elizabeth sent me the cards because she thought I would love them and find comfort in them. She was right.


I told my students this week that my parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this weekend.  Most of them were blown away.  A few commented on how awesome that is and how it’s so rare these days.

It is rare.

And it’s extremely awesome.

Forty Years.

They were married in 1973 just three months before my mom turned 20, and just days before my dad turned 23.  So young!  Such babies!

When I was 20, I remember thinking, “my mom was married by this age and I am just in my sophomore year of college with no serious boyfriend.”

I mean, when I was 20? I was ridiculous.  There was no way I could do what my mom did.

She said, “I do” to my dad at an age where I was getting large M’s marked on my hands at concerts and bars and not getting up for a class that was earlier than 10:50am.

She took on budgeting and keeping house at an age when I was still bringing my laundry home for her to do for me.

She was meal-planning and comparing meat prices at an age when I was deciding between buying Ramen noodles or that pint of Popov Vodka.

You get the point.  I can’t even begin to imagine giving up college, getting hitched, and becoming a housewife at age 20.  It is just not for me at all.

But my mom did it.

I don’t know much about what their first few years married was like.  I imagine it wasn’t that much different than mine and Cort’s first few years.  So excited to buy that first house and move in together.  Overcome with giddy silliness each time they realize that this is it.  The real deal.  No one has to go home at the end of the evening.  Concerned about the tightness of money and how to pay the bills and save.  Dreamy about what the future would be like.

I wonder at times…did they sit and dream like Cort and I do?

In those five years before they had kids, did my parents wonder about their future kids?  Think of names?  Talk about all the places they would love to travel to?  Did they sit outside with a glass of wine and talk about their dream house or dream jobs?

And once I arrived, did they stare at me in wonder like we did with Eddie?  Did they shake their head in amazement that they were actually someone’s parents? Did they worry about my future and if they were messing me up?

Once their family was complete, how did they know?  Did they settle in to raising their kids up?  What did they talk about after we kids were tucked away to bed each night?  Did they share a laugh over something one of us did that we took very seriously?  Did they discuss how they would handle the “sex talk” and puberty and boyfriends/girlfriends and getting a driver’s license and college choices and and and…

Did they ever foresee the not-so-awesome choices that we would make?  Did they cry over us?

I know they prayed over and about us.

What I do know is that in the 35 years that I have been part of that marriage, I have never seen them scream-fight at each other.

I have never heard either say anything hurtful or ugly about the other.

I have never heard them disagree about money.

I have never seen them physically hurt each other.

I have never witnessed them cut the other just to do it and watch the other person hurt.

I have many times heard my dad tell my mom what an excellent cook she is.

I have had my mom tell me to ask my dad because he knows a lot about that specific topic and could be a great help.

I have many time seen my dad hug and kiss my mom…especially after dinner…much to our kid-disgust (ewww!!!!)

I have seen them stand by each other in the face of a screaming teenager.

I have had my mom comfort me when my dad just didn’t understand my teenage girl crazy.  But she never put him down.

I have had my dad comfort me when my mom and I clashed due to my teenage girl crazy.  But he never said she was wrong.

They play up each other’s strengths and they cover each other’s weaknesses.

My mom encourages my dad to be the leader that he can be.

My dad encourages my mom to be the nurturer that she can be.

My mom reels my dad in.

My dad throws out my mom’s line a bit.

My mom is what I think of when I read about the Virgin Mary in the Bible.  I believe she loved being a mother.  She cherished all the things about her son in her heart and she honored her husband.  My mom is the same way.

My dad is what I think of when I read about the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Instead of dwelling on our mistakes, he rejoices in our victories.  He is giving and loving with his family.

My parents are not perfect.

They do argue.  They do disagree.  They make mistakes.

But they get through it.

For 40 years.

And for the rest of their lives.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad.  You are truly the best example of marriage that I have been blessed to witness. Your love, devotion, and faithfulness have influenced me more than you know.  Thank you.

They're cute, right?

They’re cute, right?

my own personal cheerleader

When she was my age, my mom was done having kids.

Her oldest was was in third grade.

Her middle child was in kindergarten.

Her youngest was a year old.

When she was my age, my mom was about to lose the only job she ever knew…at a small corner grocery store.

She would be forced to learn a new skill.

I wouldn’t know how she felt about doing new things…finding something else…finding a fit.

I was eight.

My world was myself.

In a couple short years my mom would take a huge leap of faith.  With a child in middle school, one in elementary school, and one still at home, she would enter college.

I hardly remember it.  It was a blip on my radar.

My mom sat at the kitchen table every single night pouring over her studies after her day of working and mothering.  After making dinner, clearing the table, and doing the dishes.  After carting us here and there.  After 101 errands.

Every night.

In my mind that was our normal then.

But I am sure she felt anything but normal.  She was a thirty-something sitting in freshman classes with 18 and 19 year olds.   She was stomping across campus instead of sitting behind a desk in an office.

For now.

She still had time to quiz us on vocabulary words or help us with math or watch us create a class project.

She still made our lunches and our beds.

She still brought home more than part-time work from her job.

She still made snacks for our class parties and got groceries every week and made a full dinner every night by 5:00pm

Dishes didn’t stack up.

Dusting didn’t get ignored.

Vacuuming didn’t get skipped.

And my mom?  Earned a 3.98 GPA when she finally graduated at 43 with her accounting degree.

I could blame her for my idea of what motherhood is, but I don’t.

I thank her for it.

Because even though I can’t possibly live up to that ideal that I have in my head?  She has taught me so many things.

Every single time I’ve felt like quitting?

I didn’t.

Every time I thought a class or a task or a new adventure or motherhood was too hard?

I studied/pushed/tried/loved harder.

Every time I thought I couldn’t possibly do it all?

I did.

And my mom still cheers me on the entire way…usually with homemade cookies.

yes, I had blond hair. and yes, my mom is still this pretty.