Sitting here on the floor of my living room with thank you notes and end of the year gifts spread around me, I can’t help but get the chills and feel the tears begin to well in my eyes. How poetic that after my fourth year of teaching, I finally see it. I get it. I get that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. And, if you asked me that one year ago, I was more than certain that this wasn’t for me. And that broke me down.
There are so many days where I’ve hated being a teacher. Hated this calling. Hated waking up so early and going to bed so early.
But, I see it.
I don’t deserve this.
These are the word I’ve muttered to myself when being mistreated, taken advantage of, looked down upon, etc.
Yet, I’m saying this now again in a new light.
I don’t deserve this.
I don’t deserve the love that was poured out on me by these parents, further validating this beautiful, magical year that I just had with these students.
I don’t deserve the pure sweetness, earnest intrigue, and authentic connection that I had with my kids this year. They gave so much to me, and I know they don’t understand all that it means right now. In so many ways, they saved my profession. They saved me from the bitterness, hurt, and grief that I experienced from my first years. They breathed life into my teacher soul and showed me joy each day (well…most days). 😉
To the students that saved me, I can’t thank you enough. And, I hope that one day you will understand the depth of gratitude that I have for each of you.
How poetic is it that in the midst of the cards and gifts from my students that I opened once I got home, I also found the card that my mentor teacher gave me after I student taught with her.
On the front, it reads, “do one thing every day that scares you.” And, for many days of the past four years, it’s not an exaggeration to say that waking up and walking through that classroom door scared me. It was scary to not know what was going to happen, what student was going to have an “incident,” or who might pop in to observe me. Yet, there is so much power in that and I know how much strength God built up in me on those (many) grueling days.
To end the note she wrote, she shared a quote that read, “There will come a time you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”
And, in a lot of ways, I feel like I have finally begun.
It’s crazy to think that the things that I worried most about this year, and the ways that I felt like I failed (i.e., grading and getting graded work back and sending home papers) didn’t seem to matter in the end.
And, when I think about what truly shows to parents the value that I gave to my students, is the way that the kids talk about me. Yes, I was super hard on many of them. And, sometimes I felt bad about that. Yet, these are the kids who at the end of the year have parents who write these notes that just floor me.
It’s so easy to feel unnoticed. Unappreciated. And, like I’m just spinning my wheels. Is any of this even helping? Am I doing anything? Did they learn enough?
But, the kicker is that they will go on their summer break and come back. And, when they come back, the things I thought I taught them in the “best” ways…who knows what they will remember? And the things that I taught them in the “worst” ways…they’ll probably remember those things just as well.
I know that the connection and the experience that I shared at this specific year of their lives will never be matched. We will never connect on the same level, or in the same way. We will never have the same type of relationship, even if I do keep in touch with them.
I’m learning to be okay with that. And, I’m learning to be grateful for that.
This year that I spent with them was beautiful…on so many levels. It was beautiful and redemptive for me personally. It was beautiful the way our community came together and rode the waves of the ups and downs of a school year. It was beautiful the grace and forgiveness we shared.
For some reason, this year I talked a lot to the kids about the most exciting things versus things that are boring. We asked the question, “are the exciting days or events really that exciting if everyday is like that? Or, would that just be normal?”
In the mundane tasks and in the trenches of testing, I’m grateful to have lived life and had these experiences with these specific kids, at this specific time, at this specific age. What a treasure it was to be their teacher.
And just like that, the most undervalued, underpaid, misunderstood, and unappreciated profession…for me, it becomes such an honor.
Truly, what an honor.