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Days Like Today

Bryce Brothers Education, Life in the Classroom, Love, Social Issues

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If you will bear with me, I am going to take a moment to be honest with myself.

There are days, like today, I roll myself out of bed, struggling to perform the most menial of tasks. Brushing my teeth is daunting. Tying my shoes is suddenly the most complicated thing I have ever done. I find myself weary before the day has even started. Somehow, I manage to push myself forward and, with all the gusto of a lifeless zombie, make my way to my car and out on the road, only to realize, I left my lunch. On these days, somewhere between my driveway and the door to my classroom, one thought usually plagues my mind. One question lingers.

That question: What am I doing?

Not in the sense that I really have no idea what I am doing. Although, that could also be true considering each day brings some kind of new challenge that leaves me with more questions than answers.

Really this question is about my career choice. What am I doing? Perhaps more appropriately, why?

It’s no secret, and I am not ashamed to say that I never thought I would be where I am today. Teaching high school English was not my plan A, or B, or even D. I didn’t grow up dreaming about having a classroom of my own, or following in the footsteps of teacher parents.

So, this question comes easy to me. Like most people in moments of weakness, I look to what’s easy. A small voice creeps its way in and says, “You could be doing __________.” Or, “You could be making ___________.” I would be lying if I said I never entertained these thoughts, but I am in many ways ashamed that I do.

I am ashamed because every day, no matter how hard, the same thing happens. Every day I open the door to my classroom, and I know where I belong. The posters on the walls, and the desks, and the piles of papers waiting to be graded, and the smell of chalk, and the message on the board that says, “Students Will Be Able To,” and the rumbling of a hundred voices just outside, and the note that reads, “Thank you for inspiring me,” stir in my heart all the reasons I fell in love with teaching.

Teaching is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

We are often overworked and underpaid. Many of us spend hours behind our desks long after our contract time has passed. We turn down invitations and miss out on opportunities because we have to grade and plan. We carry our students with us everywhere we go. At night, we fall asleep wondering what we can do to help “that one kid.” In the classroom, we wage war against apathy and the “I’m never gonna need this” attitude. Every day, we show up, plaster a smile on our faces, and welcome students with open hands and open hearts. Every day, we dig deep inside ourselves to find some way to make the things we are saying relevant and interesting. We work, and we fight, and we push forward until we feel like we can’t go on any more and then we see it. In the back of a student’s eyes, there’s a spark. A flicker of light begins to shine. A connection was made. They get it. They understand. Another student, that it would seem made it their duty to push you to the edge of sanity, walks into your room, shakes your hand, and thanks you for pushing them to graduate.

There are days, like today, I wake up tired, unsure if I will be able to go on. A question pops into my head.

The question: What am I doing?

The answer: Teaching!




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Bryce Brothers

Flagstaff, Arizona

I teach 12th grade English full time as well as coach Speech and Debate in the Flagstaff Unified School District. Although I am only in my second year of teaching, I consistently participate in as many professional development opportunities as I can. I love all of my students and have the best job in the world. Teaching has not always been the direction I wanted to go with my life. In fact, I tried just about everything else I was physically able to do. Eventually, fate caught up with me and teaching became my passion and purpose the first time I stepped into an education course at NAU. In addition to being a full-time teacher, I am also a husband and father.

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Comments 8

  1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I am sure many teachers have this conversation daily! I did not plan to be a teacher, either, but once I made that choice, it stuck. It is the only job I can imagine myself doing for which, when you ask that question, “What am I doing?” there is _always_ a worthy answer. Always.

  2. Donnie Lee

    I used to ask myself this same question when I was in the classroom. It actually got to a point when I could no longer answer it for myself. After 8 years of teaching, I packed up my stuff and quit. During the next year, my level of stress went way down and my level of income went way up! However, I realized that year how much the classroom meant for me. Because of that year, I no longer wondered, “What if I would’ve choose this career instead?” I now know my answer and education is where I belong.

  3. Sandy Merz

    When kids used to ask if I liked teaching, I would always ask them, “Do you like people telling you what to do?” They would say no, and I would then ask, “Do you ever see anyone tell me what to do?” They would say no, and I would say that’s why I like teaching. It was an answer I’m not proud of, but it got the point that for all it’s complications, teachers have tremendous autonomy. It drives me bananas whenever I hear a colleague say, “We can’t do anything until….” We can always do something – even something as seemingly minor as making an effort to be a little friendlier toward that kid you really don’t like or being a little bit more consistent in your personal routines. I’m not sure why, but that’s what came to mind as I read this.

  4. Jen Robinson

    Hi Bryce
    Thank you for sharing this vulnerable and real piece. I think everyone in education has this conversation. But in the end it is about our scholars and the impact we have. We may not realize it at the time, but we do have an impact. I am an elementary principal and some days I wonder why I do what I do or how I will make it through and then an amazing moment happens and you see the spark and the flicker begins to shine – the connection is made. That’s it!

  5. Beth Maloney

    I really appreciate your honesty in this piece, Bryce. It is hard to admit to ourselves, let alone others, that we do not always love our jobs as teachers and question our path and future. Our job is incredibly difficult and exhaustion and burnout are real issues (hello teacher crisis!). We need to bring these issues into the light to help combat burnout and recognize it in ourselves and others. Great piece!

  6. Treva Jenkins

    Thank you Bryce for sharing such a heartfelt piece. I know exactly what you’re going through as this year I find myself struggling with the insanity that some times rears its ugly head in our profession, but as you and Dr. Robinson mentioned, it truly is about the difference we are making in the lives of our scholars. We may not always see it or feel it, but it’s there. We are making a major impact on our little ones. If we can just block out all the other noises, and take hold of that…”spark. [that] flicker of light [that] begins to shine…” that’s our fuel; that’s what keeps us all going and those are the moments we have to seize! Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for your post, as we all can truly relate to these moments.

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