We all know someone who inspires us to be better. Actually, for me it's not someone, but it's lots of people and it's nearly impossible to narrow this down to one person so I won't even attempt it. Instead, I will share about those people who inspire me the most, motivating me to be the best I can be.
1. My Husband.
He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He sure does get on my case a whole lot and perhaps he so inspires me because I want to prove him wrong. Above all, he inspires me because despite knowing the good, the bad and the very ugly, he loves me anyway and still has faith in me. He's taught me to take more risks, to laugh at myself and to improvise when curve balls come my way.
2. My Mother
The most generous and hard working woman I've ever known. She came to this country in her 30s not knowing a word of English, overcame huge hurdles with a beautiful smile on her face and kind words for everyone she encountered. She never attended college but was the child of a successful entrepreneur in Cuba and never wanted for anything - that was until Cuba was taken over by communism and she and her family lost everything my grandfather worked so hard for. They courageously left their homeland and started over in America. She still doesn't speak English well, because living in Miami if you speak Spanish you are good, but she knows enough to get by and is not afraid to speak broken English. At 83, she runs circles around me and I hope that at her age I'm only half the woman she is.
3. My Daddy
He's no longer walking this earth, but he's still in my heart and mind. He was strict and stern and always pushed me to do my best. When I didn't do well in school, he would remind me that he didn't come to this country for me to work at McDonalds. He let me stand on his shoulders and go places he only dreamed of. He wasn't born into privilege but worked tirelessly and always managed his money well. When communism took over Cuba, he didn't fall as hard as my mother, but he still wasn't too happy about everyone being poor. As soon as he married my mother, he left Cuba with my mom and her family. He taught me to be a forward thinker and never look back. I still hear him saying, "para atras ni para coger impulso" (never step backward, not even to pick up speed).
4. My Kids
My husband and I were married 12 1/2 years when our first child was born, but God's timing is perfect. By then, I had been a teacher for seven years and it was good preparation for motherhood. However, when I returned to the classroom after staying home a few years, I feel it's my kids that make me a better teacher. I want to give my students my best because their parents are counting on it, as I am of my kids' teachers. They keep me grounded and keep me young. I also want them to be proud of me as they will soon be roaming the halls at my schools.
5. My Colleagues and my PLN
Education professionals near and far really keep me going, especially those who tweet and share so many awesome ideas. I'm not very competitive by nature, but I have to admit that there's a good sense of keeping up with the Joneses that keeps me on my toes. I love taking ideas from my peers, giving them my own twist and trying them in my classroom. Sure sometimes, we huddle and vent, but above all we inspire one another. They inspire me to continue learning and growing because they show me how much I still need to learn.
6. My Students
Last but not least, this is the reason I wake up every morning and stay up late. As an immigrant child who grew up with parents who weren't fluent English speakers, I so connect with my students. And not only with those who speak Spanish at home, I relate to the immigrant experience itself. When I interviewed for my current position and was asked why I should be hired for this position, I quickly responded, "because I've been there and done that and I totally get what they are going through". Being an ESL teacher is about much more than teaching English. ELLs need to learn optimism and perseverance because life will be tougher for them than the average citizen, but having experienced some of these obstacles myself and with my parents makes my message a great deal more convincing.
There are many others who have cheered me on and continue to do so, but this blog post would turn into a book if I include them all. I will say that after composing this post, I will make sure to take time to thank those who encourage and inspire me. I also would like to start paying forward the inspiration and pave the way for those who come behind.