Nearly a week away from school. I am relaxed. As stressful as it has been these past few months, I am looking forward to getting back. I have no illusions that all will be magically better. I know my troubled kids will still be troubled, maybe even more so after a week without structure and routine. But, I’ll be better.
I have come to a few conclusions that should help me be a better teacher for the next few months.
1.) I can’t save the world. I can’t make everyone learn. I can’t get through to all 20 kids every day. May not ever be able to get through to one of them. But none of that should prevent me from doing my best and continuing to try new things.
2.) I want to be there. Those first few weeks I daydreamed of being back at the university where my biggest worry was that I wasn’t challenging a few high achievers enough, or that I wasn’t completely clear in an assignment and had to spend extra time reviewing. As I waded through Common Core requirements, WIDA testing, and Math Modules I wanted to be back with the few I’m-not-even-sure-college-has-anything-to offer smart alecks I had last semester. But this week, as I start mentally preparing myself to go back to work in a few days, I realize that I am not dreading it, that I want to hear what the kids did over break, that I want to figure out the best way to present the newest Math Module (which is on arrays and preparing for multiplication), that I want to find a more efficient Language Arts routine, that I want to beef up the Science and Social Studies lessons in my room.
3.) And here’s my greatest realization: I want the challenging kids. True, I’m not really good at it yet, but I want to be. I want to be the teacher that can turn things around for a few tough nuts. I want to make school welcoming for the kids who are beginning to feel that they don’t belong, that they can’t compete, that they are destined for remedial. While I may never find a way to reach the Miguels of the world, who need way more help than I am trained to offer, I think I can make a more positive impact than I have done thus far.
As I think of all that I want to achieve as a teacher, I am also thinking of my family and what I want to do for them. These conclusions about my teaching career do not mean that I will stay late after school. I’ll still go home right after the students do, except for the one day a week when Greg goes home early to be with the girls. I still want to make family dinners, have after-school conversations about the events of the day, drive the girls to appointments and practices, exercise, read for pleasure, and write. I want to end the day watching television with Greg and falling asleep on the couch so he can switch to the sports channel. I want to meet up with my sisters once a month, make sure my girls get “cousin time” and go out for drinks with my “Bad Moms” group regularly.
When I took this job, after having worked only part time for a year and a half, I promised myself that I would not let it consume me, that I could not allow it to consume me, that my family (and my sanity) came first. The challenges of this class could make me break that promise, almost demand that I do, but then I would not have the strength to actually tackle those challenges. They would, instead, tackle me, leaving me dazed and useless. Eight hours a day (plus a few weekend hours) is all I can give and still be able to give at all.
So, as I spread my notebooks and curriculum guides at the kitchen table, I do so without resentment, without dread. I’m happy to put in a few hours to plan the week and looking forward to trying out a few new ideas. I feel ready for Monday.
(Though, if the predicted snow causes a snow day on Monday, I won’t cry about it.)