Dear Teacher on the Tired Days,
I get it.
I had a student hurt my feelings today. Words that cut deep and wounded because there is always an element of truth perceived by the one being sarcastic.
And I’ve been icing my bruises all afternoon.
The school year is winding down, and I’m tired. I know you’re tired, too. Exhaustion is seeping in. We’re wondering if we’re going to end better than we began, or if our students will be dragging our limp bodies across the finish line.
My seniors may have three weeks left, but they checked out a month ago. Some days I wonder why I even bother to have a lesson. I could just assign a reading passage and the questions to answer from the end for the next fifteen school days.
There are teachers out there who do that…
I understand why.
I spend days and weeks begging and pleading, attempting to try anything that might, just might, get my students to read the books I assign.
I craft lessons and talk about stories and show video clips in every attempt to get my teens to think outside of themselves—to see the world and its nuances. Then I spend lunch wiping the tears of the one bullied and outcast.
I stay up to grade essays and comment on ways to improve their writing. Hours spent away from my family only to wonder if it makes any sort of difference when I see those same essays in the trash.
So by this time of year, I’m ready to call it quits. Every year wondering if I can do it again.
I know you understand. I know you feel the same. I know you have nights you wonder why you chose this profession, this teaching, this pouring out of your life into hearts day after day after day.
But really? You didn’t choose teaching.
It chose you.
For me, college was spent denying the very thought of teaching. It was only a far-in-the-background safety net if the writing thing didn’t work out.
The only job I could get right out of college?
By Christmas that first year I said never again.
I’ve been teaching thirteen of the last seventeen years, and now there’s no other job I’d enjoy more. (Unless being a travel writer for Condé Nast was an option…Are they hiring? Tahiti sounds like heaven right now.)
It is my calling. It is my purpose.
But here’s the thing about calling. God doesn’t call us to the easy. He invites us to the hard. The get-your-hands-dirty difficult. We are not promised perfect just because we are fulfilling our life’s purpose.
Because that kid with the bitter sarcasm? He or she may still need your smile that you might not want to give.
And your class after lunch with 20 big teenage boys and only five girls, all hyped-up with sugar, dyes, and processed foods and IEPs and 504s? They need to know they’re worth the effort even when they themselves show none.
And those children from broken homes with parents who shatter each other with words or fists? They need a quiet heart to stand beside them, even though you know politicians only see their test scores and not their homes.
And those students with apathy so thick you fear they will never feel anything? For anyone? They need to see that transparency breathes a beautiful life. They need to see it in you, even when the see-through heart leaves you an easy target.
Teaching was never about us. If this profession has called your name, you’re only ever in it for the students.
That’s why it hurts so much when they act like they don’t care or when the disrespect slaps us hard across the face, and the sting burns for days.
I know you’re tired. You’re battle weary with wounds seeping and scarring. But they still need you.
They need to see your fight.
Don’t give up, my friend. You can’t. I can’t. The stakes are too high. This calling, this profession, this teaching—it changes the future.
Our students are worth starting new tomorrow. They are worth giving it all we have one more day again and again and again.
Because there are students listening. There are students learning. There are students caring. We must refuse to allow the loud voices of a few to drown out the soft voices of teachable spirits.
Let’s fight together, friends. Let’s end this year better than we began. Let’s cheer each other on tomorrow and the next day and the next until we hear that final bell ring.
This is our calling. These are our students.
They deserve our fight.