“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus
If I can do this, I can do anything.
I start the official school year in one day and a half. At 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, I will be coaxing first name/last name out of first-year kindergarteners and relenting to writing down their descriptions in order to check them into breakfast. There are 150 of them this year, a fact that makes me dizzy with nervousness and eventual excitement.
I had a tough first year, for a host of reasons. It’s natural to feel like changing careers is logical when it get’s tough, but I didn’t think it would be that tough. I honestly rethought this whole inner city teaching, something I’ve dreamed about, researched, studied for a very long time.
It was weird. Halfway through the summer, I started feeling really excited about going back. I think I lost my nerve for a little bit, my perception hazed like the day after a rager. I could think of a million different reasons as to why this happened, but I’m not sure the why is as important as how to change it. A change in focus?
But after being back to work for professional development, planning and weighing in on interviews for new teachers, I was getting grouchy. It’s hard to go from doing nothing to doing a whole bunch, but then we had Family Night. We had a parking lot full of people, more than half being returning students, some 5th graders coming to see the new building. I got really choked up seeing them register my face and then lighting up. Their excited faces running to hug me, at least half a foot taller than in June, might be the best feeling in the world.
This is why I’m here. This is where I want to be. It’s not for everyone, but I love these kids. It’s about them. I think we forget sometimes how important we are to them, how much we matter, and we forget about how much they matter to us. Providing a brand new beautiful school with tons of room to kids that never get to be in such a beautiful space is why we’re here. It’s why I teach in the inner city, why I don’t care about the money or the time or the really truly insanely hard work. Who cares about the rest.
I think we all struggle with trying to hang on to the enthusiasm we feel at this time of year. We get unbearably tired, things get crazy, kids go into crisis, we have a tough string of really bad days. But as one of my mentors used to say, “What’s the alternative?” I can’t think of one I’m happy with.
I’m proud of where I teach, I’m proud of my co-workers, I’m proud of my school, my environment and every single one of the 595 children that attend my school and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just remind me to be the “tree” in October.