9.18.2006

Metaphorically Speaking

Some days, when it's drizzly and gray outside, and it's still humid as a mofo, and I feel like I'm not getting anything done, even though I have barely sat down all day, and I'm exhausted before I even get to school, and to top it all off, it's MONDAY ... probably on days like this, it's best to ignore me.

But since you're already here ...

I was thinking today, about how little it takes to make me fall in love with my work again.

About how the smallest thing perks me right up, and I feel like all the hard times are behind me, and there's nothing but sunshine ahead.

About how I make a big deal out of it when someone does the thing that he SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING ALL ALONG, only I have made him into, like, a HERO, or something, just because he turned in a paper.

About how I continue to pour out love and affection on my kids, even though the likelihood of a return gesture is slim-to-none.

About how much of my own self I put into my job, and how little I ask in return, as though what I do is such a small thing, like I'm not spending my waking hours planning and grading and directing and printing and reading and studying, and how I constantly feel that I need to DO MORE and DO BETTER.

About how I take it personally when someone fails my class, as if it is somehow MY fault, and if I were only a more dedicated teacher, this could have been avoided.

About how, when a parent accuses ME of being the problem, I sort of secretly agree.

About how I never think that what I do is good enough, even though what I do is pretty darn good.

About how, if I were a good teacher, I would spend MORE time with my students, calling parents, reworking lessons, and less time sitting on my couch watching television.

About how my identity is completely tied into my job, and if it ever happens that I'm not a teacher, I will be, instead, nothing.

And I thought to myself, today, that if my job were a man, and I felt the same way about him that I sometimes feel about teaching, that I would be part of a dysfunctional, mentally abusive, possibly violent relationship.

Except ... nobody's telling me that I should leave. Nobody's slipping me the numbers to hotlines and shelters. Nobody's suggesting to me that THE JOB'S the problem. Nobody's telling me that I would be better off without it.

As a community, teachers are EXPECTED to stay in this profession, and to SHUT UP if we have complaints, and to ACCEPT everything that comes down the pike, and to AGREE that we DESERVE lousy paychecks and no respect, and to EXCUSE everything because we "have a higher calling," like GOD invented standardized tests, and above all, to BE HAPPY ABOUT IT.

And I can't help but think to myself, why am I doing this?

I can't answer that.

I don't know why I allow myself to be knocked down EVERY DAY, and I always pick myself back up and think, "It'll be different next time."

I don't know why, having sworn never to teach again, I had such a hunger for it that I quit a great job and moved from a fantastic city to the armpit of civilization.

I don't know why I keep hoping I can give my students something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, when chances are, they aren't even going to carry it with them to the next test.

I don't know why I try to root out that tiny spark of potential, and I blow on it with all my breath, hoping it will somehow flame into success.

I don't know why I cannot envision myself outside of a classroom, even though the thought of grading papers for thirty more years is more depressing than this post has become.

I wish I did. I WISH I KNEW.

But instead, I stay quiet, and I hide my bruises, and I make excuses, and I take the blame, and I tell myself, Scarlett-like, that it will be better tomorrow.

2 comments:

Mrs Simpson said...

You could not have done a better job describing how I feel about teaching! I can't imagine doing this for the nearly forty years it will take to earn retirement (because I moved to a new state and then taught at a private school and so I have 8 years of experience that are not counting toward retirement)! But, I can't imagine not doing this either. No matter how hard I work, it is never enough. And yet, I can find rewards for teaching in the smallest gestures! We can do this!

Anonymous said...

I work in community mental health, and I often feel the same way. What keeps me here, though? Passion. Passion for the clients we serve. Passion for the field. Passion for understanding people. I have taught, as well. The passion just wasn't there. The passion has to keep you, because the paycheck certainly doesn't.

 

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