Friday, November 21, 2014

Musings of a new teacher...

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I have my dream job. I am teaching 10th grade English at the high school I graduated from. I get the privilege of working alongside some of the people who have helped shape who I am and who have challenged and encouraged me intellectually and personally. 

I look forward to going to school every day. I can't wait to see my students. My favorite part of my job is just getting to hang out with them every day. I realize that it is impossible to have a very close relationship with all 150 of my students, but I do my best. 

The best part of my job is also the worst part, however. I have students who go home to parents who don't seem to care about them. I have students who come to school and have no friends because they are a little bit different than everyone else. I have students who have lost family members. I have students who don't even know where their next meal is coming from. I have students who have to deal with more than I've ever had to deal with in my life, all before the age of 16. 

Every teacher knows that there are no truly perfect days. Even the best days, where I've created a home run of a lesson plan and my students actually get it and understand what I'm trying to teach, have their down sides. There's always a student who doesn't get it, or an administrative issue that makes things a little less than perfect. It's impossible for 150 people to all have the same "good day." 

I want so much to help. I want so much to be able to make things easier and better. I want to take away all the pain and the hurt.  I want each and every one of them to succeed, but the sad truth is that a lot of them won't. I want to encourage my struggling students and help them understand that school and learning are worth it and that it is in their best interest to try their hardest, even if their hardest is only a C or a D. But I can't. I can't do this for everyone. I can't keep up with every single student the way I want to. I can't make sure they're all ok all the time. Sometimes the situation of one of my students makes me want to curl into a ball and just cry. Sometimes the students whose circumstances are all set against them are the ones who want to succeed the most. They try the hardest and still struggle to make it every day because their lives are so much harder than a 15 year old's life should be. At the same time, I have students who have everything: a family who loves them, parents who make a decent livelihood, and 3 meals every day. These kids live normal teenage lives and are set up for success and yet they don't even want to try. They are content to sit and do nothing and expect that life will just hand them what they want on a silver platter. I can't help but think how unfair it is that little Susie wants so badly to go to college, but everything in her life is against her. Her family can't afford it, or her foster parents refuse to pay, or her family isn't here legally, or she's pregnant and has no idea who the father is or any means to provide for the baby. Yet in spite of the fact that Billy Joe's dad makes $200,000 a year at a fortune 500 company, his parents are still married, and he has everything in the world a teenager could want to be happy and comfortable, he refuses to try and is content to fail because he doesn't feel like putting forth the effort. 

I hurt so much for both of these students. I want Susie to have every opportunity that I know Billy will have, and I want Billy to have pride in what he does. I want him to be passionate about something that will help him make an impact in some small area of his world. Honestly, I can't let myself dwell on these things too long or I will collapse. I will never be able to do enough. The nature of my job is such that no matter what I do, how many hours I put in, how many parents I call, how many tutoring sessions or conferences I have, it will never be enough. I read a blog post once about how a teacher's job is never done and that there is never enough time, enough resources, or enough of us to go around. That resonates with me because it is so true. There will always be students and lessons that fall through the cracks. For every student I reach there are 2 more that are slipping. My heart breaks for some of my students every day.

In spite of all this I don't believe I could ever do anything else. There is nothing more fulfilling than a simple heartfelt "thank you," or a hug from one of my kids. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a kid smile at a grade that I know he worked his butt off for. There is nothing that fills me with more pride than seeing a student come to me to do extra work to bring his grade up. I love watching my students succeed. It's hard some days, but every good and happy moment makes the hard moments worth it. I am so blessed because even though sometimes they make me want to tear my hair out, I love them. All of them. Which is something I never thought I would be able to say. I'm not very touchy-feely or sentimental. I'm not good at expressions of emotion (except maybe anger or frustration). But this job brings out a side of me that I'm not used to. It scares me a little, but it's refreshing. When I'm discouraged and I feel like I'm not getting anywhere or that I'm doing a terrible job, one of my kids always manages to do something that wakes this fuzzy, adorable, little creature inside of me and it just purrs in contentment. I feel ALL the feels with this job; the sadness, the anger, the frustration, the defeat, the heartbreak, the joy, the excitement, the pride, the encouragement, the love. It's an emotional roller coaster every day and it keeps me on my toes. 

I'm still a new teacher, so I know I'll learn and I'll grow. I work with some of the most talented people in this profession. They wouldn't let me fail. I know this will get easier and harder and better and worse as I go forward. I can't help but be excited. It took me awhile to figure out what I was called to do, and I'm certain now that this is it. I spent so much time praying and freaked out because I had no idea what I wanted to be when I "grew up." God's timing and his plan is perfect, it just takes us a long time to realize it. I can't wait to see how he uses these kids to shape my life even more.

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