by Leonid Afremov
As we're nearing the finish line this year and as I reflect back on my classes, I can truly say that, overall, this has been a great year. I've had the luxury of looping many of my PreCalc kids into Calculus (which has resulted in the best class dynamics I've ever gotten to be a part of); I've had amazing opportunities to start to become a teacher-leader at my school; and I've grown much closer to several of my colleagues. All in all, a wonderful year.
But, of course, it's had its hiccups, too.
I've encountered experiences this year that I knew were eventually bound to happen, but that I've had the fortune of not having to deal with the past five years of teaching.
Experiences that make you question, "Is all this work really worth it?"
Is it worth it when the very people you are trying to help turn against you?
Is it worth it when you can't see the fruit of your labor?
And in those moments, I've found one thing to be true: the only way to get out of that place of loneliness and despair is to "stand on the shoulders of giants," as our calculus hero Newton said. I've had to let my guard down, be vulnerable, show my weaknesses, and say to my friends, mentors, and colleagues, "I'm drowning. Help me remember why it is I do what I do."
And they have, consistently, come to my rescue.
Growing up, my church had this saying, "Faith is a journey, and it was never meant to be done alone." That's so true, but I think the quote can be made even broader by replacing faith with life. Life was not meant to be done alone. Yet, I think teaching is perhaps one of the careers most susceptible to isolation. It's so easy to focus on MY kids and what we're doing in MY classroom. It's so easy to stay in my little comfort zone all day and never really interact with adults on a deep level.
And if I choose that path, there are at least two consequences of which I am certain:
I was recently sent this article and I have clung to Glennon Melton's words:
You do not teach by teaching- you teach by loving. Be humble and courageous.
That juxtaposition of humility and courage really hit home. To be both meek yet bold...that would solve so many of my problems.
And, yet, while it sounds nice, and while it's certainly something I strive for, I realize that it's not something that is just going to happen. And it's certainly not something that will happen without the help of a community.
So, here's the thing I know: We have to have a support system. We have to have people we can call, text, email, Skype, whatever in our dark moments and say, "I freaking suck at this job. Please help me remember why it is I do what I do." We have to have people whom we know we can trust. We have to have people in our lives who look out for us; who put others' needs above their own. We pour our hearts and souls into the lives of kids, and if we don't have people doing the same for us, we will eventually show up empty, tired, and alone.
We can't be there for our kids emotionally and mentally if we don't have people who are there for us.
After this year, I now know for certain I have people who have my back. People who want to see me succeed. People who can restore and replenish me so I can restore and replenish my kids.
I sincerely hope you do, too.