I was talking with someone recently, and she asked me, "it seems like the last couple years everything about teaching has been hard...do you still enjoy it? Is it still bringing you joy?
Oooof. That stuck with me. Because I realize, as exhausting as things have been (especially since the pandemic hit), I could totally stand to share some positives. Because even in the crap slurry that has been the past few years, there are soooo many good things.
Before I get into those, I do want to mention that I am not alone in feeling the exhaustion of life as a teacher right now. There are countless articles that help me to see that I am not crazy, I am not a negative nellie, that this is a pervasive issue that is countrywide and causing a significant issue with teacher retention and teacher shortages (which further make things difficult for those of us who stay). And, it's been an issue for a while: see this post from The Cult of Pedagogy in 2019. Irony...I bought that book Fewer Things, Better but haven't had time to read it yet. I feel like when I have time to read, I need it to be an escape.
This is the cover of my neaToday magazine from the National Education Association:
One woman says:
And then, there's this:
Yikes, that all sounds so dire.
I can say that I fall in the "No effect" category. I have no plans to leave teaching, or to retire earlier than planned. I really do love it. But there's definitely problems in the way the United States views and uses teachers.
So what are my positive things? The stuff that fills my bucket? Let me give you a taste of some things that have happened just in the past month or two:
- When a parent thanks me for understanding and advocating for their child.
- When a student turns to another student, new to Resource Room, and says, "I didn't love Resource at first either, but this year I have had my best grades ever and I really think it's because of Resource -- it helps me so much!" (I might have teared up a bit)
- I have amazing colleagues who are also my friends, who teach me things, who are there when I need to walk into their room, close the door, and cry, who know what it's like to love your job even when you're feeling totally underwater and frustrated with the systemic aspects of it.
- When a student lights up in the hallway and yells, "Hi Mrs. T!"
- When I run into students in public and they ACTUALLY WANT TO TALK WITH ME and tell me they miss me, even when they were perhaps...challenging...in the classroom.
- When I run into a parent in the grocery store and then find out I'm invited to a summer graduation party for a student I had in 8th grade, four years ago
- When I have a student with many behavioral challenges who can truly be infuriating but then will stay after school with me to get work done and then asks, "Are you going on the D.C. trip?" and when I say, "Oh, unfortunately not this year," looks STRICKEN and DISAPPOINTED and so I know there is a connection there underneath all the prickles and eyerolling! Huzzah! (but also I cannot acknowledge this one bit because it will kill the moment)
- When parents say in meetings that their child is successful because of the combo of pushing and support that I provide
- When I feel like I'm all negative nellie and then another teacher tells me that I'm "a ray of sunshine, you always seem so happy and positive" and it reminds me that I'm not a black hole of negativity after all
- When a student finds my room to be their "safe space" and stops in throughout the day
- When other teachers say thank you for all the work I do as lead special ed teacher and one even speaks up in front of our new principal who starts July 1 and says "I just want to thank Jess, because she does so much for our department and she really goes to bat for us."
- When students start using silly phrases that I use to be ridiculous, like calling Google Classroom "googly classroom" or a computer a "compooter" and they correct me when I say it the regular way...
- When a student "gets it" and you can see that lightbulb light up as they realize they understand something that was hard before