April and May are tough times of the year for me. Every year. Right now, I teach straight from 8:11 until 2:11. Then, at 2:11, my room is usually full of kids working on projects for other teachers — needing password resets and help. Then, at 3:03, I sit down to try to grade and plan lessons but I’m so tired, I just wonder what to do.
I’ve written about How to Step Back from Burnout, but this is more than that. Right now, I’m approaching 100,000 Twitter followers, and that is awesome. But in some ways, it is intimidating to me. I don’t feel special. I know I don’t have all the answers. All of you have caused a tad of crisis in my tweeting (which I will get over). Being paid attention to sounds like a very odd problem but really, it is a reflection on responsibility. I want to do right by those of you who trust me and right now, I don’t feel at my best. I’m struggling to stay in the classroom.
I want to encourage and be helpful to teachers. No doubt, that is my calling. And yet, I have this agreement with myself that when I’m too down and have nothing good to say, that I will be very very careful about writing. I am a professional, and there are right and wrong ways to handle problems. There are those who air their issues on the Net and wait for thousands of vigilant friends to come to their defense. Come on! Grow up. That isn’t how we handle things, in my opinion. There are times but not every time. There are lonely battles I fight by myself.
The truth is that I’m having an epically hard time right now. Each morning I get up and work hard to exercise and eat well — anything that I know will boost my mood and help me teach for six hours straight. I stay late grading and have adjusted my schedule to spend time helping students after school. I often wonder how I’m going to make it through the next five weeks. I work hard to keep hold of my thought life and not let it spiral into despair.
So much of my energy is being tied up in “making it” that it becomes quite overwhelming to try to inspire others. I feel insufficient. I feel like you need someone who does everything perfectly, has a perfectly clean room and has all the answers. Yet, one thing I have also discovered: if I see a person who says they are a perfect teacher, they are a liar. Because perfect teachers don’t exist. There are no perfect humans. We all mess up.
There are many days when I think that the best answer is just to quit. And yet, I know that it is not my time to leave… yet. When I leave the classroom, I will not quit – I will decide to leave and know that I have another classroom of another kind to tackle. Quit implies giving up. Sometimes there is a time to move on after you finish well.
I think that perhaps it is my time to feel the depths of the struggle that most normal teachers feel. It is my time to push through and find answers for myself that can help others. I had vented a tiny piece of a struggle I had last Thursday, and someone else tweeted back at me, “somehow knowing you had a rough day too, makes mine not so bad.”
So, maybe this post is just to encourage those of you out there who are real teachers. Some may struggle with the fact that I am not, despite some who argue to the otherwise, a modern day Pollyanna. I am a realistic optimist. I know the reality of how hard it is going to be to go for another five weeks teaching 6 hours a day straight. I am also optimistic that, as always, I will find a way to soar (even if I feel like I’ve fallen in a mud puddle right now.)
Maybe this post is to help you know that many of us struggle to make it one day to the next. In fact, I’m down to one-minute-at-a-time right now.
Maybe this post is to help you know that you’re not alone. So many of us struggle.
It is not a lack of love for the kids. It is just the reality of all of the bazillions of things that we deal with as a teacher that no one could put in a book. Kids who get sick at the worst times and parents who think they prove their love to their children by how loud they yell at their teacher. People who yell at you without even getting their facts straight. Too many responsibilities and too little time and a struggle to achieve a balance that never quite gets there. I’m not resentful against this profession I love; this profession is what it is. No one can change this for me. I either accept it, or I don’t.
I am a teacher. I am glad to be a teacher. I am glad that it makes a difference in the lives of children. But this profession, like few others, wears on the soul of the person who dons the mantle. It is worthwhile, but it is hard work.
If you’re with me, and you get every word I’m writing then let me tell you this.
I love you and your sacrifice. If I could reach through this computer and give you a hug, I would. If I could sit across from you and buy you a cup of coffee and tell you that you’ll make it, I would. But I can’t do that. I can only write these words:
Teacher! You are important. Your job is noble and incredible. And you will make it. One foot in front of the other. Do your best, and that is enough. Keep going. Wait and make the big decisions about life when you’re a little more rested and I will too.
We can do this.