Monday, July 6, 2015
If you can't say anything nice...
Wise words, yes? Simple, but so true. It's something few teachers will talk about in public. We fear that others will judge us harshly for not "doing it for the kids" or treating it like a paycheck with summers off. It couldn't be farther from the truth. With every profession, there are challenges and emotional implications- there are just different forms and how they are perceived by others. Only a few professions are seen as a public service, which is why we bond so easily with police, fire and other workers who are there to help others. Clearly I am not saving lives in the same manner- I would never make THAT claim. However, when community service professionals struggle emotionally, want better conditions or pay- politics get in the way. The business of education can get in the way of what truly matters.
My confession comes easy, but the implications are huge. I'm a chronic over-achiever and for most of last year, I felt like a failure. I had the hardest year of my teaching career... I struggled to find the joy in a profession that I love. I contemplated quitting so many times. My half-hearted joke was that Costco sounded like a great alternative! You check in, do your best, and then go home to your family. The emotional entanglements were minimal. There was pressure coming from every direction- new curriculum, political (both sides of the aisle), public perception, expectations, colleagues, parents, classroom behavior, time management, my family... It was the perfect storm of things that I had very little control over. Why did I stay? My kids- biological and the 23 on loan for the year.
My sons needed to see me struggle, cry, manage and pull myself back up from the brink of emotional despair and giving up. My husband even wanted me to take a break, but knew that I wouldn't. That I couldn't. My husband and I have never sheltered them from the joy and heartaches of our jobs. We talk honestly about our day every night at dinner. My family became part of my classroom world, asking about my students and celebrating with me at their successes. They also gave hugs when I felt defeated because I couldn't "fix" their issues at home or even friendships. I could only give coping strategies- hoping for the best.
My classroom children were like my own. I taught them, mothered them, taught them greater independence and tried to foster a sense of family and community. This was new for many of my students. We hugged often. That was what got me through the toughest days. Without a word, my sweet babies would give me a pat as they walked by and hugs before lunch, after lunch, and then again before leaving for the day. We formed a strong emotional bond- much like family. We got on each others nerves, but we knew that we were in this together and that I had their backs- no matter what.
My class taught me so much. They will probably never know how much. I learned perseverance, compassion, love, patience and empathy... the list goes on and on. I grew as a teacher. I grew as a human. I am stronger than I ever thought that I could be. I had to bring my A-game each and every day. It's now who I am. My toughest class made me a better teacher and mother. I didn't know that I could be this person. Is it cliche to say I was reborn out of the fire?
I'm excited about the new possibilities. I just got home from a week at the Teachers College Reading Writing Project in New York. My head is still spinning, but I have perspective. I will rest and enjoy my home-life for another month and then think school (you know I will still make random lists for the fall- it's who we are!). I also want to write. I've missed my blog and the cathartic experience that writing provides. I'm also headed back into my art workshop to create. It's my soul work. It's time to recharge.
I wish the same for you. I wish you rest and a time to remember who you are. Thank you for reading and happy summer!