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!