Monday, November 25, 2013

bucking up

I do not jest when I say there are days that I awaken desperate to do anything other than teach teenagers. Some days I stay in bed until the last possible ridiculous moment; I groggily consider what I could do from the comfort of my pajamas that would pay for a few summer nights in NYC; I mentally map out our budget and decide where I could scrimp to account for a few thousand less. But I always trudge downstairs, make some tea, eat cake if I'm lucky, nag my kids into semi-meaningful conversation while they have breakfast, and imagine telling my principal (who also, mercifully & thankfully, is a friend) that I cannot do my job anymore. First, in my imaginary scenario, I see her jaw set in a way that makes me want to run, and then I see her squinting, trying to listen to my reasons. Which are, honestly, stupid.

Managing my time is hard.
Coming up with interesting, relevant, useful lessons is hard.
Going to meetings is hard.
Filling out paperwork is hard.
I want to do something easier.

I never get to the place where I articulate these things because scary principal friend just thinking about them while I shower and blow dry my hair and do my makeup remind me that they are truly stupid. Of course my job is hard - I am helping new people navigate the world in meaningful ways. Yet that includes my own people, the ones I birthed and am raising but somehow inexplicably still do dumb things amidst the cool things. Plus I want to spend time with my husband, that isn't always centered around wine & The Walking Dead after the kids are in bed (though these moments are golden, yo). And I have friends whom I'd also like to see occasionally for a few hours, without having to compromise lesson plans or meeting notes or grading.

So yes, all of the parts of my job make living life hard - as do many parts of many people's jobs. I think it's a sign that something is truly worth doing if it is difficult and we do it anyway, with pride; if we care enough to put in the time it takes to make our jobs satisfying to ourselves and meaningful to others, that is valuable.

And here's the cool thing about those few days when I wake up in a state like this: At least one student somehow rocks my teacher world within a few hours. I've found an anonymous note saying my hair & smiley faces are awesome and that the writer admires my wit. A very reluctant/borderline contentious poetry student got engrossed in putting together a presentation of his Where I'm From poem, asking excitedly if he could use as background the picture of his house he got from Google Earth. A quiet girl made a point of telling me Technology is now her favorite class because I'm teaching it. Another girl whom I had reprimanded for stirring up drama later brought me a Keep Calm button for my bulletin board.

Then today, this exchange happened with a boy who loves the Philadelphia Eagles:

Him - Hey! The Cowboys won yesterday! [pause] I watched the game; I think the Giants are pretty crappy.

Me - I KNOW! It was a terrible game, but it was a win. Now we're tied with the Eagles' record!

Him - Yeah.

Me - But I wore green today, just for you. [I wear black if my team loses]

Him - Oh, and I'm wearing blue! Cool!

....then we have to start class, but that. It's exactly why I get out of bed, and forget about the stupid stuff.

4 comments:

Saucy said...

It's the little rewards. They aren't monetary but they're worth so much. Although I'm not teaching anymore, I kept most of my stuff "just in case" as I have that teacher-hoarder thing engrained deep within. I recently found a landscape painting on canvas that a student (a really tough, troubled kid) gifted me (also interesting - I wasn't in the art classroom at that point, I was her work ed teacher) and inscribed on the back, "coolest teacher ever." So, while my aim is not to compete with you for the title, I'm telling you now... years after you drop the bomb on your principal friend, you'll still have that Keep Calm button somewhere.

The Girl Next Door said...

I have no doubt you are an awesome teacher and your school kids and home kids are lucky to have you. I wake up many mornings with the "i don't wannas" and my job isn't even important (a lawyer fighting over dirt who cares! oh sometimes the people who live there, ok so every once in a while I help someone), so I can't imagine facing rooms full of challenging kids every day!! YOU GO GIRL!

Jennifer Denise Ouellette said...

This was a perfect read for me this morning--I've had a little student drama this past week so this is timely.

There's no more rewarding job than changing someone's life, but it isn't the easiest work ever, that's for sure.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Teachers are incredible. I fondly remember my Creative Writing teacher who nurtured each one of us, including a guy in my class named Mike who went on to become a member of Pearl Jam. (Yes, really.)

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