When I decided to teach, I had no idea what to expect. It was new and challenging, and I was passionate and excited, but today was one of those days…the kind nobody tells you about. The kind of day when your kids come back from break not realizing break time is over; not wanting to listen or work. When you tell your kids your desk is overflowing and your papers are screaming “grade me” and they look at you with a blank stare, and you frown because you realize they don’t understand the concept of personification, which you’ve only gone over six million times.(hyperbole) If you’re reading this I want you to know, this would make much more sense if you were an English teacher. Anyway… emails and data, worksheets and exams, standards and scores, schedules and lesson plans…they creep up on your desktop and your mind so quickly, soon you can’t differentiate the school from your home, and you find yourself writing your grocery list in essay form, LOL, jk, jk.
Teaching is wonderful, it is complete with fulfillment and joy, and there are days when I can honestly say at the end of the day I love my job, this is my purpose, this is my calling, I feel like I loved and taught well today. Then come the Tuesdays of the world, the Tuesdays coming back from Winter Break, when your kids are tired, sleep deprived, off their routine, played too many video games and didn’t get any reading done. Some of them were home with parents who constantly fought, maybe they didn’t get enough to eat, or have anyone smile at them or even acknowledge them in two weeks. They come back and they are cranky instead of well-rested, sleepy and irritated instead of renewed, and maybe you feel like everything you taught them the last semester is totally forgotten. You deal with attitudes and you want to cry at how overwhelmed you feel as you are drowning in data that doesn’t make sense, and you suddenly feel like you are failing at the one thing you love to do-and then you add a Tuesday like today in there and you start questioning why on Earth you ever figured you could teach.
Then God reminds you.
God reminds you when a student asks if he can talk to you outside and next thing you know you are both hugging in the hallway, as you convince him not to drop out and instead let him know just how capable of college He is, and with tears rolling down his face He thanks you for caring.
God reminds you when a student who has been struggling all year, makes the highest grade out of all your classes on a semester test, and you get to see him light up as he shows off his grade and realizes he can do so much more when he works hard.
God reminds you as you are exhausted at the end of the day and all you can do is think about darting out of class when the bell rings, and one of your kids pulls you aside and shares something difficult they are going through. So, as tired as you are and as ready as you are to go home, you stay late and share your own experience with her and let her know how special, valuable, and worthy she truly is, and how she should never accept less than she deserves.
Teaching is hard, and crazy, chaotic, stressful, and at times overwhelming, but it is one of the most beautiful vocations where you get to give a part of your heart and your gifts and abilities to a few kids every day.
Every day is different.
Every kid is different.
Sometimes teaching them looks like hooks and introductions, similes, metaphors, bell ringers, and context clues.
But sometimes you teach them by loving them with the little things like bringing them a bag of hot cheetos because you were thinking about them, or giving them a birthday card to know you didn’t forget, or taking the time to listen to their story, reminding them how smart they truly are, and not letting them make excuses for themselves, or giving up your conference time or lunch to help them with an essay.
Because you’re not just teaching English or math or Science or Social Studies…you’re teaching them about life, love, kindness, success, leadership, and you are influencing, helping mold them into the people they will become.
It’s rewarding to teach them.
It’s amazing to love them.
There will be days when you walk away feeling like you didn’t accomplish doing either one.
But there are days when you get to do both at the same time.
The days beyond the deadlines and data where you know you made a difference, even if it was one person, or one moment at a time.
Those are the moments you live for and make you connect to your students, so much that you hurt when they are hurting, and you celebrate even their smallest victory.
Those moments that make you get up the next day and do it all over again, even when you’re exhausted, even when it’s hard, even when you can’t find your lesson plans in your car which is now filled with coffee cups, gradebooks, calendars, and red pens.
…and when your students owe their life to Philippians 4:13 which you recite over and over under your breath, or through your fake smile while you are gritting your teeth telling them no, for the last time, we cannot have a free day…
Those…those are the things about teaching nobody tells you…and those are the things worth telling about.