Lately i’ve been thinking a lot about why I teach, I’ve also been thinking a lot about work life balance, and passion projects, and taking care of your heart and your well being as well.
Teaching is exhausting. It takes all of your heart to deal with our kids every day. It takes all of your soul to give all of your love to them and keep on trying AND teach them something while you’re at it. On top of that you’ve got state standards and state testing and admin and interventions and remediations and then there are all those little fears about what you can or can’t do. It’s a constant battle and there’s a reason so many teachers don’t make it to the end of their first year before jumping ship, especially in high need areas.
So what makes me stay? I was recently talking to a friend who is in her first year of teaching and that question kept coming up. We’re so tired and it takes everything out of you and it takes all of your time and how the hell are we going to do this once we start families?
And the answer every single time is, because we love it. We LOVE it. It is the most frustrating thing in the world and I can’t get enough of it.
Because no matter what “issues” come up or how much red tape you have to cut through or how many times the freaking copier breaks, I love my job. I love my students and I love helping them. I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to be responsible for all of those lightbulbs going off. Especially when you’re a senior year teacher. These kids are in their final year and they still have so much to learn and I get to make that happen. I get to intervene at one of the most pivotal moments of their lives and offer what little guidance I have. I get to step in and look over college essays, or teach them how to balance a budget, and just listen to them when they talk. I get to be a safe space.
My senior year of High School was one of the most stressful years of my life. I quit theatre which took away my home at school, I was applying for what felt like every scholarship ever, I was working my butt off to save money for college, and my mom and I were definitely about done with each other (hi mom!). Senior year was ROUGH y’all. But luckily for me I had a safe place to go, I had a teacher in my life who cared about me enough to just let me invade her space during lunch and listen to my teenage problems (which turns out were super real! Who knew!?) and she is the reason I teach now and the reason the main aspect of my teaching will always be relationship building.
We talk about “loving the children” a lot in teaching. But y’all it’s freaking hard. It takes everything you have. Which is why it is SO IMPORTANT to have work life balance. Which i’m sure every teacher in the world is rolling their eyes at when they see that. How? When we have essays to grade and portfolios to assess and we are CONSTANTLY switching up every educational strategy in the world. How do we keep time to ourselves when we’re just learning ourselves?
For that I have no easy answers and I can’t tell anyone what to do because i’m still figuring it out. But I know when to stop. I know when i’ve met my limit and i’ve finally recognized that I can’t help anyone if I don’t take time for self care in my life. Once that stopped being a platitude and started being how I lived my life, I got better. I’m still getting better. Heck I feel like this is just happening right now. (um because it is) But this year is already going so much better.
I’ve restructured my classroom. I’ve restructured my grades. I’ve restructured my planner. And i’m taking time for me.
Most importantly i’ve once again shifted my perspective about my job. Shifted it all the way back around to how I felt when I first started teaching. I remind myself every day about why I teach. I stop myself in every interaction with a kid and ask myself if i’m teaching the kid or teaching the curriculum. Because the curriculum will happen, it’s the relationships that needs work and the curriculum won’t ever happen if the relationship doesn’t first. They need so so so much work. For an introvert like me they need the most work. I’m finally hitting the point in the year where these kids in my room aren’t strangers sucking away all my people person energy molecules and instead they are now people I know and respect and care for. They are known to me and I am known to them. We interact with each other and we teach each other and we grow together. I’m not afraid to admit I messed up, and i’m hoping one day that will convince them it’s okay to do the same.
We all make mistakes in a classroom, that’s how we learn. If we want our students to know and show that why do we beat ourselves up so much when we mess up? Why do we act like it’s the end of the world. Start over. It’s never too late. Every day is a new day and it’s a new chance to scrap it all and start over.
I started writing this post with a much different post in mind, but then this happened. And you know what? I like it and i’m keeping it. Forgive the lack of editing, forgive the stream of conciousness (when is my blog not though really?). I’ve been thinking about this so much lately.
Teaching almost killed me last year. I started this year wondering if it was going to be my last. They always say if you make it through three years you’ll make it through five and if you make it through five you’ll make it to seven and I was thinking “I’ll make it through four.” but more and more I think that there is no way I can even begin to think about leaving the classroom. There is no way i’d give this up. This messy, ridiculous, political, broken printer world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because I love those lightbulbs. I love handing books to kids and talking about how much they loved them. I love watching a kid FINALLY understand why certain essays are written certain ways. I love helping kids get into college. I love teaching life lessons. I love listening to problems. I love that these kids are comfortable enough with me that when their season ends they’re in my room the next day filling their now empty after school hours by being in my classroom.
And that’s why i’ll stay. Because while there is plenty to be down about and there are so many hard things in this job and sometimes the entire world has decided to quit on you, not a day goes by where not a single good thing happens. Not one day goes by where I haven’t made a direct impact on someone’s life. Not one day goes by that i’m not being renewed by these young wonderful scholars.
Each day they give back whatever has been taken from me times 10. I had a lot of resetting to do. I had a lot of paradigm shifting to do (to use this year’s buzz phrase) and I had a lot of work I had to do on me (most of it involved planners and journals tbh) but i’m finally finally finally getting back to that point where I look at my life and I love the momentum behind it. I LOVE IT. I love how much i’ve got going for me and I love that only about half of it is school right now. I’ve got such a good home life and hobby life that I feel good about. I’m so busy. Don’t get me wrong. Some weeks i’m working 21 hours for my hobby. Plus my grading. Plus my passion projects. Plus all the HGTV I manage to consume. And I am so fine with that.
Because in between all of that there I am trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. Slowly learning to say no. Slowly learning to just not feel afraid to shamelessly back out of things (where people weren’t depending on me that is) and it’s great. I’m learning what kind of packed schedule I can tolerate and still get all my personal home life stuff taken care of.
Please don’t get me wrong, I struggle a lot. But i’m using it as a learning opportunity. All i’m seeing right now in my failure is room to improve. I’ve finally adopted a growth mindset! (insert cry laughing emoji here).
It’s just that i’m finally okay with failing. Because I can fix it tomorrow. I can fix it next week. I can fix it next grading period. I can fix it next year. It will happen. I can make it happen. As long as i’m taking care of me and i’m taking care of my students as humans first then i’m good.
I’m good. and i’ll keep fighting to stay good. And i’ll keep fighting to stay here. Because i’m the crazy person who loves this ridiculously hard job. I love it.
Until next time,