A question has been rattling around in my brain for several weeks—maybe longer, but I’m just now acknowledging it. Today in a PLC meeting with two brand new teachers, that rattle silenced the room.
I wanted to end our PLC on a positive note. As teachers new to the staff, we had been talking about our frustrations and wondering how to accomplish all the daunting tasks our principal and board have gifted us. I said, Let’s find something to end this in a positive way, and we can hang onto that the rest of the day. I said something positive about feeling like a part of a team and at least I wasn’t alone in my frustrations, and then it fell out of my mouth. And silence followed.
Never have I questioned myself so much as I have in the last few months, I spoke. I’m not even sure I have the energy for this anymore. I’m not even sure I want to teach anymore.
Silence. Then one of the brand new teachers I work with said, Oh, wow. Like I had just shat myself in the middle of the room and we were all left with the smelly residue.
I felt bad for saying it. I felt unburdened for saying it. It was the truth. And the truth always sounds different when it’s spoken in sincerity.
The day continued. I helped students strengthen their claims; I helped them come up with hooks for their argument essays; I helped them navigate around writing hurdles; I helped them get through their days. Because the truth of the matter is, they were helping me get through my day… And the ugly question that picked at the inside of my brain all day long.
What would I be if I weren’t a teacher?
And now processing my thinking, rolling my thoughts over and over again, listening to the way they fall off my tongue… I feel completely lost, disenchanted, defeated, stupid.
I don’t know if I have the energy for this anymore.
I’m close to coming up on a decade of being a teacher. The building I spent years in felt more like a twisted basketball game: I was always on defense, I needed to anticipate the play of the other guy, I needed to keep pushing myself to win one for the home team. I played the game, and I fought to win for my students. Time after time, I was blocked and maneuvered around and ignored—and this was from people who were supposed to be on my same team. Eventually the game and the fight wore me down, and I came to the decision that it was time to move on. I wasn’t making a difference changing the system which was systematically harming my students.
This new beginning has been tough, but I’m dedicated to the outcome. Not the assessments and not the standards: I am dedicated to the outcome of doing what is right for my students. So many of them have lived such hard stories of struggle and strife that I want them to come to my classroom and taste success—to know that they are worthwhile and smart and have something to offer to the world…
But not even a month into school, and I can hear the yell of the spectators, feel the pull of the game, and anticipate the familiar fight approaching.
Why do I have to defend doing the right things for my students? Do I have the energy to continue the fight… to start all over again?
I look at my own two kids, and I think about all the time I have missed, all the time I have given up with them. But has being a teacher added anything? Or just taken away time from being a mother?
Both of the kids give me their gems of encouragement… No, mom. You’re a teacher. You’re good at it. You still want to be a teacher; trust me. I love the optimism and grit my boy shows as he speaks to me. He speaks with conviction about what I do. He knows being a teacher is important, and he has seen how the kids I have taught have affected our lives. He knows I love them—as much as I love him but in a much different way.
The question isn’t how much I love to teach. Or how much of an effect I have on students. Or how much they affect me. The question is do I have the energy to continue fighting a deeply flawed, broken system… Do I have any try left?
I’m seeking guidance, friends. Please send help.