“What Brought Me Here”

IMG_3169By Nicole Girvan, Head of Lower School

In preparation for the Division Head’s Coffee last week, I reflected on the question, “What brought you here?” It reminded me of the letter I wrote in January of 2016 describing how I got into education in the first place. I realize not everyone chooses a profession that they intended or even like. However, I am truly fortunate to work in an environment that I appreciate.

Do you remember why you chose your current profession? A few years ago over winter break, I was cleaning, and I stumbled upon old pictures, and nostalgia overwhelmed me. I found the picture of my youngest brother sticking out among the stack of family photos. We adopted him when he was seven; he had been in a handful of foster homes prior to arriving at ours. I was ten and vividly remember the day my mother interrupted me when I was playing outside and asked if I wanted another brother. I already had three brothers and three sisters, so I thought this was an easy response. My answer, without any hesitation, was, “No….no, thank you.” I said it with conviction and naively thought I really had the deciding vote.

To my chagrin, I was on my way to having four brothers! When we first started the transition of adopting my youngest brother, I remember it was an onerous one. In retrospect, I cannot fathom going to another family wondering if this one was “the one.” Consequently, the school was extremely challenging for my brother; he began to react in a negative way and had a difficult time engaging and connecting with others. It was his teacher who noticed this and began to cultivate a relationship with him that would make a significant impact. It was the connection she established with my brother that allowed him to open up as she took the time to get to know him. The unconditional love she showed for him allowed him to trust; he began to flourish academically, make friends, and trust others.

The amazing patience this teacher had for one of her students, my brother, motivated me to want to do the same when I was old enough to have a career. It is my goal to be like that teacher and to impact a child’s life the way that she did with him. I try to embrace every interaction as an opportunity to replicate what my brother’s teacher did for my brother.

My parents are amazing in so many ways, and one of the things my parents would always bestow upon us was to do what we love and to always be true to ourselves. At ten, I did not understand what that really meant. Now, however, many decades later, I get it. I appreciate my parents’ words of wisdom and am proud to say that I absolutely do what I love to do and have stayed true to myself throughout my twenty-one years in education. With every student with whom I spend time, I see my brother. Authenticity is something for which I strive, and I can only hope that I am like my brother’s teacher and make every student feel respected, trusted, and loved.

This is why I chose to work in education.

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