5, 4, 1.
Those seemingly random numbers are my own mental countdown to the end of school. Five days this next week, four days the week after that, one day the week after that. Ten days, all total. And it’s funny, but the term “ten days” can go from feeling like a very long time to feeling like a very short time and back again…all in the span of thirty seconds.
So, as I look forward with anticipation and dread to the next ten school days, I’ve been reflecting on the past year. All the tears cried, the laughs laughed, the lessons learned. And today, I will document a few of them, if for no other reason than my uncanny ability to forget lessons learned from one day to the next, combined with the fact that I’ll be doing all of this over again starting in August.
[This year has taught me that…] Ego is not the same thing as pride. I remember when I first came to IRA, I believed that my students were the most prideful people I’d ever met. Always insisting, verbally or otherwise, that what mattered most is their own happiness and comfort. An attitude of entitlement permeated absolutely everything many of them did [or, more often than not, did not do]. I wish I could say that trend has changed over the past nine months; I would be entirely untruthful if I did say that of most of them. But one seemingly subtle change has taken place; I have realized that many of them have an inflated sense of ego, but no sense of pride. At least not a sense of pride that comes from having accomplished something lasting, something they didn’t think they could do, something they can appreciate for themselves and let others appreciate as well.
That in and of itself has become one of my goals for my classroom next year; that my students would learn that it’s possible to abandon your ego and still feel pride. To do something you don’t want to do, that isn’t within your comfort zone, that doesn’t offer our all-American sense of instant gratification…and in the end, still feel that curious satisfaction that comes with a job well done. I want them to learn to never sign their names to something they can’t be proud of, be it a performance or a paper or some random action throughout their day.
[This year has taught me that…] Everyone you encounter loves something and has lost something. It is in that universal sentiment that we find the most common ground. Contrary to popular educational belief, I don’t have to be afraid to be vulnerable in the classroom…frankly, my kids don’t need or want to see someone who has it all together and possesses no weaknesses. If my students believe that I’m perfect, they will have no way to relate to me. And if they cannot relate to me, I could be the best teacher in the world and still fall flat on my face with them. They need to see someone who is utterly human; who tries, and fails, and has fears, and has doubts, and has insecurities…but who choses never to let those failures or fears or doubts or insecurities rule her or make her less than she’s capable of.
[This year has taught me that…] I am the lucky one. No matter what names I get called, no matter how disrespectfully they treat me, no matter how they choose to see me…when it comes down to me and my students, I am the lucky one. Or the blessed one, since I place far more stock in God than in luck. I am the one who gets to come home at night to a place where I am loved and cherished and cared for. My car is paid for, my house is safe and comfortable, my job is secure, my identity is not wrapped up in how others see me or feel about me or treat me. I have a faithful and loving husband, two sets of parents and siblings who would die for me if need be, a group of friends who are unfailingly loyal and supportive, and the list goes on. No matter how bad the day is, I have no excuse to feel sorry for myself, and no excuse to demand that anyone else feel sorry for me.
[This year has taught me that…] The one thing you can never take back is the moment when you tap out. Sure, it’s probably better to try and succeed than to try and fail. But it’s better to try and fail than to concede defeat and quit. Especially with my kids. The second they see you give up is the second you quit being a positive example and start being like every other hypocritical person in their lives who’s ever tried to tell them with their words how to live a better life and denied those words with their actions. I will not tap out. Even when it sucks. Even when it hurts. I will not quit. I will not give them another reason to believe that giving up is an acceptable option.
I will not tap out.