Before I even begin with the pictures and everything, I need to attempt to express my gratitude. I spent all three days in Minneapolis telling those who made this happen - the coordinators from MLB, Target, and People Magazine - that teachers rarely receive so much praise and it's truly humbling. But many professions receive little praise. When's the last time you heaped accolades on your local grocery store's manager, or on your teller at the bank? Why are teachers any different?
It struck me as we were flying home. Put aside what teachers do, the hours we put in, and the emotional weight of this career. The real truth is that teachers are used to hearing the opposite of praise. We are used to receiving blame. We are used to disrespect. We are used to being treated like pawns instead of professionals. We may experience fair treatment from our colleagues and administrators (I know I do), but the general public and politicians tend to look down on teachers.
On this trip, I was treated like a professional. I was treated like I was worthy of the all-star treatment I was receiving. It was moving beyond words. I was constantly on the verge of tears; my emotions were constantly bubbling just beneath the surface. I made sure to snap a few photos of each big event and then stow my phone because I wanted to be as present as possible. (Matt was amazing about taking photos so I could just enjoy myself.) I wanted to just soak it in. Because on the hard days this year when I'm being questioned or treated like my job isn't important, I want to be able to draw on these memories and know that some very important people out there respect and admire teachers. That we are not in this alone.
We make a difference. And every teacher deserves this kind of praise, attention, and kindness. So before I even begin what promises to be an extremely long post, I need to shout out to my fellow teachers whose blogs I follow: Rachel, Heather G., Meg, Heather, and Cori. I thought of you all constantly this weekend, along with my amazing and talented colleagues and teacher friends. You all deserve an experience that makes you feel important for doing the work that you do.
Travel made easy. A car service picked Matt and me up early in the morning and whisked us to the airport; another driver met us in Minneapolis a few hours later to drive us to the hotel.
|The first of many times when I would unashamedly gawk in public. I felt so out of my element.
Check-in was the first time it hit me that this trip was going to be way bigger than I had imagined. The young women from MLB and People who were in charge of the show handed me a box filled with the tickets for the Home Run Derby, the All Star Game, and other events, along with a backpack full of goodies and a stipend.
|Never before has saying, "I'm one of the teachers" opened so many doors!
In that moment, I had already received more than I had expected in the way of gifts. I mean, I knew I was attending the game, but somehow it hadn't occurred to me that there would be other perks included...I'm not really used to being showered with gifts.
Matt and I had some time before our official welcome, so we went to FanFest. It was fun to tour the convention center and see the trophy room; by the end though, my feet did that weird crampy thing where they turn into claws, and we had to go.
|Thinking deeply while waiting in line.
|Us with the World Serious Trophy.
|The actual women who inspired A League of Their Own!
Back at the room, Matt got me a bucket of ice and I soaked my feet. It was the best thing I could have done, because just a couple hours later I was in heels and ready for the reception.
We met in the lobby and "mingled". (Meaning I stuck to Matt like glue and awkwardly smiled at people because I have no people skills. Luckily, everyone was so friendly and, like runners, teachers have a tendency to bond and become friends very quickly.) Then we walked to the Target Headquarters for our reception.
|If you haven't yet, I strongly urge you to visit www.allstarteachers.com and read the bios for the other teachers. They are AMAZING people and there was a wonderful mix of teachers from every grade level and every subject area.
The sight that greeted me was the second time I realized that winning this title was a huge deal. The pendants for each team hung on red lockers; our photos and bios hung beside them. Tables of wrapped iPad Minis and lovely blue Tiffany boxes stood to the side.
|I swore I'd never have an iPad. Thanks, Target, for making a liar of me! (I'm happy to be one in this case haha!)
The room was filled with music from a string quartet and we drifted toward a beautifully laid table filled with all kinds of tidbits.
|Florida teachers with one of our amazing Target representatives!
|Bullseye is seriously the most perfectly trained dog I have ever encountered.
Here, I finally broke the ice. The thirty of us congratulated each other and I soon realized there were other Florida teachers there. Bullseye the Target dog posed with us; then Cal Ripken Jr. showed up.
|All 30 of us with Cal and Bullseye!
|This interactive map showed all the teams, and when you clicked on their logo it showed all three finalists. You could read the bio for each one. I quickly found myself!
|Target has a goal to raise $1 billion for education by the end of 2015. These giant baseballs are signed by students whose libraries have been made over by Target.
Around this time, speeches began. A representative from each company (MLB, Target, and People) spoke, and each speech left me near tears. They spoke about teachers they remembered who changed their lives; they told us we weren't lucky, that we deserved to be here, and that they had such admiration and respect for us. Cal Ripken was the last to speak on teachers and coaches and how much we impact and change the lives of children.
|This man needs no introduction...he is, after all, the original Iron Man!
|We finished the night with perfectly sized root beer floats.
After spending some more time meeting everyone and taking photos with Cal (yes, we're on a first name basis now, of course), we walked back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
If the trip had ended there, it would have been enough. But it was only the first day; we had two more days of surprises in store!
I've decided to cut the post into sections because OMG this is getting long-winded.
Who is a teacher you will always remember...in a good way?
Do you stay in touch with your old teachers?