When I was 12 I decided I wanted to become a teacher. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to do it overseas. At 27, this is what I do.  I get to fly home and see my (healthy) parents twice a year. With technology I manage to talk to my family regularly and maintain friendships with some truly wonderful, inspiring and caring people around the world.

I have desires and fears and insecurities that plague me, but I know that I have never truly wanted for anything in my life. There was never a point in my life when a large red STOP sign was held in my path, keeping me from where I wanted to go.

I am so thankful that no one I love and trust has ever told me that I should give up on something. Not everything worked, but at least people stood by me as I messed up. When I look at my students, and I think about this and I hope that they’re getting those same messages.

I know that for some of them, the world is going to throw stop signs in their paths and it breaks my heart when I think of it. I don’t know how people can parent in a world where they can foresee a thousand ways it can hurt their children. It seems like the most terrifying thing I can imagine.

I don’t know how my parents managed to raise my sisters and me to be so full of belief in ourselves. How often they must have looked at us and worried about those STOP signs. They had two hearing-impaired daughters who went to a school with no idea how to support us – I know that some significant bulldozing was done in order for us to have enjoyed going to school at all.

I am so thankful for my family. I am so thankful for my friends.

I am thankful to the parents I know who are supporting their children and making them believe that the world will let them be the people who they want to be, rather than the people that the world expects them to be.

I am grateful for those twinges of fear and heartbreak I have when I think of the challenges my students face down the road because they remind me that they are children, with lives ahead of them. It reminds me to treat them with care and respect and to work to be a green light for their passions in the world, rather than a stop sign.

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