No. You don’t get to tell me who I am. You don’t get to make me feel worthless.
I am good at what I do. Just because not everyone entirely gets what I do doesn’t change the fact that I’m good at it. And yes, maybe I’m in the wrong place; maybe I haven’t found my niche yet, my specific way to change the world. I have no tolerance for beaurocratic time-wasters. I have no patience for politics in the education system. It is unfathomable to me to spend time on assessments and data that don’t always accurately measure where my kids are or help me figure out how to get them out of the hell-hole that their lives resemble some days. All these things may be decent indications that at the end of the day, teaching is a means to an end for me. And that end most certainly isn’t a paycheck. My personal goal, my personal end, so to see a generation change. Not so they can become productive members of society. Not so they can put America back in the top 5 education systems in the world. Not so they can keep us a world power.
So they can stop dying inside.
I walk into a building every single day that is absolutely full of people who, at age 14-18, are little more than walking zombies. And it makes me ache, honestly. I watch girls–who already perceive themselves as grown women–walk around the halls exposing as much of their breasts and thighs as possible, moving and acting as suggestively as possible, giving up any possibility of being perceived as a lady in order to be perceived as an object. Because let’s face it–the objects get a whole lot more attention these days. I watch boys–who already perceive themselves as grown men–selling themselves into lives of illegal activity, into the constant need to be armed, into the inability to take care of a woman because they’re too busy using them. And they don’t know how to do anything else. They act on instinct, on impulse, on rote repetition of what they’ve seen their friends and the people in movies do.
For me, these realities make it hard for me to teach. They make it hard for me to focus on redirecting a student who’s talking to me about her life, even something that seems as silly to a teacher as an impending breakup with her boyfriend; gotta get her back on track, keep her “on task.” When, for myself personally, being academically on task falls completely secondary to being available to actually hear her and walk with her through the process of living life. In her world, she IS on task. She’s working through the things that are foremost in her mind. And while my job is to keep her on my task…my deeper calling is to keep her on her task. To get her actually engaged in her life, to give her an outside perspective on things, to teach her wisdom in real life.
And I’m in no way belittling the idea of education or the plight of teachers. God knows this world needs teachers who are committed to the betterment of their kids, who thrive on the lessons and the assessments and the data and on figuring out how they can use those tools to give these same kids a better life.
Some days I’m just not sure whether I’m supposed to be one of them. Sometimes I wonder that this is just the easiest and most obvious way to pursue my calling. And in that thought, I question as I have many other times in many other situations: what if easiest and most obvious is not equivalent to best?