Dene E. Gainey

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In My Own Skin.

In My Own Skin. I have the same skin today as I did back then (maybe a little darker thanks to the sun), but of course I am not speaking literally, per say. I often think back to all of the times where I underestimated myself, didn't see where I had value and basically doubted that I had anything to offer anyone. Do I have what it takes? Can I accomplish the purpose hidden within my existence? Can I act on that drive that so often bubbles up inside of me? I have often asked myself if I had it in me. Isn't it ironic that the guy who doubted what he had to offer came in contact with an amazing first grade teacher who CARED? She cared about the way I learned. She CARED about the way I wrote things on paper. She CARED about who I grew up to me, my character if you will. She CARED about the days ahead that I didn't know anything about. You might even say that she CARED about me more than I did at the time. I had AMAZING parents, and along with this teacher, my life was shaped. I wonder if I would have turned out the way that I did without this teacher's influence in my life. You might say she saw what I was too young or naive to see, but had she not had the eyes to see it, just maybe my entire path would have been altered.

img_1050I became a teacher in 2004, immediately after I graduated with my baccalaureate degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I was completely motivated by the idea of being able to enter a world where I could help others, perhaps like my eloquent and CARING first grade teacher. I started out with so much enthusiasm and excitement and that enthusiasm and excitement was contagious. My students saw it, my students felt it, my fellow educators and principals saw and felt it too. While that excitement and enthusiasm has stayed with me over the course of the eleven years of being a classroom teacher, there have been many challenges along the way that could have easily encumbered me, if I allowed it. It's not a gender thing, though in some cases it has become that. It's not a color thing, though sometimes it seems to be that.. It's a human thing.

It is impossible to "C.L.I.M.B.E." when the pressures and weights are allowed to weigh you down. Pressures and weights are vast and can take on many shapes and forms. As an educator, I feel it is my role to help my students C.L.I.M.B.E. I can't very well succeed in that endeavor when I am not comfortable in my own skin. What do I mean by that? Well I absolutely believe that educators have to have a tenacity and a desire to not just teach students, but reach them. The reach is not always comfortable. You may not always feel the support you think you need. You maybe be the only one in a space that thinks like you do, but the students must be reason. The students must be the focus. And so if they are the reason and the focus, then I, the educator must be comfortable in my own skin. I must be comfortable enough to pursue, to go after learning, to keep learning, so that I can keep impacting.

I don't know where I'd be or who I'd be without the challenges and obstacles. They couldn't be taught to me in the four walls of the brick and mortar college. Learning came in the challenges. I took away some things from the obstacles. I quickly learned that the obstacle is the way. So when challenges rise in the world of education, I have to remember the purpose for which I entered it. It was for the students. It was to make an impact. It was to give selflessly to someone else such that we can all be better. So if I am to be comfortable in my own skin, I have to be willing to be the first one to try something. I have to be the one that is willing to go out on a limb for students. I have to be the one that acts intentionally with purpose and mission. Sometimes that purpose and mission makes you feel alone, even when you are in a room full of people. It is important to embrace the difference and be comfortable with that difference and its uniqueness and authenticity. Maybe that difference is the difference necessary to be a catalyst for change. One of the greatest things in life is understanding and appreciating the differences in people, so that we can use those differences to bring us together.  I have to okay with what may be eccentric thoughts and innovative ideas when they don't line up with another's thinking, or a cookie cutter approach. I have to okay with the desire to fully embrace being compelled to reach, teach and be, In My Own Skin.

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