I’ve Been Teaching for Over Twenty Years, And They Still Surprise Me

Really, two decades.  Half my life.  I have been teaching for one twenty years, and my students still don’t cease to amaze me.  Surprise me.  Thrill me.

Today, a student whose family is from India taught me about arranged marriages, the cultural identification of the area from which her family has originated, and the stereotypes that people will place upon individuals of Indian descent.

Today, I learned that my seniors are still very unsure of themselves and welcome having “how-to” videos in terms of writing papers.

Today, I learned that my gifted-and-talented kids are so unsure of themselves that wrapping themselves around stuffed animal polar bears still offers them comfort.

Today, I learned that no matter how much I work, I will always be in love with my work.  This really isn’t that much of a surprise.

But it is.

I keep on falling in love with what I am doing.  I figured that after two full decades plus some extra years, I would have found that my job is just a job and that I am merely a part of a greater puzzle and that things really aren’t that great.

But they are.  They really are.

Which is surprising for me.

Nobody really talks about what it’s like to have been in a job for half of one’s life and to find that, no matter how many years have elapsed, the joy of being in one’s job is still fresh and new and wonderful and enthralling.

It feels good that my sense of mourning my loss of teaching seniors has expired.  Sure, they were wonderful and incredible and beautiful. But that emotion of…I don’t have them just doesn’t hit me anymore.  I think I have finally found where I am and my new little plateau in the teaching world is…

Well…

It’s quite lovely and wonderful.

Sure, I really do love writing letters of recommendation and editing student college entry essays.  It’s a lot of fun being a part of a  student’s life as he/she is getting ready to move forward into another stage of his/her life.

But, where I am…

It’s good and it’s wonderful.

I am seeing that my sense of who I am and what I am doing is still enthralling.  I haven’t lost anything.

I’ve gained so much, though.

I’ve gained a newfound sense of enthusiasm.  A new sense of joy.  I am happy and in love with an excitement and passion that has been kind of waning in the last couple of years.

And feeling that internal drive, that sudden burst of combustible energy surging…

it’s re-newing and invigorating and…”my cup runneth over.”

I’m exhausted.  I’m more exhausted than I was at the end of last year.  Today, I watched six teachers go through different stages of frustration and anxiety because the end of quarter deadline is fast approaching and our focus on the work inside the classroom is so over-powering that we are sometimes remiss in all the nitty-gritty parts of the paperwork that exists behind the scenes.

But, even that is empowering.  I’m in the middle of this lovely and beautiful community of people whose focus and primary love is for the students and not the curriculum and not the three months of summer vacation.  They want to see the students learn and succeed and thrive within a challenging but powerfully supportive environment.  They want to see the students learn and feel that sudden eureka moment of joy when they move from “I don’t get it” to “Oh, my God, I got it and I can see why this is important!”

That is my world.

Loving learning.  Loving the acquisition and application of knowledge.

I had a student today commend me for my pursuit of academia.  She said I was “wise.”

Wise.

Me.

I always thought I was rather stupid and then I was in the middle of this lovely world and suddenly I shed all those doubts and all those self-retributive questions and left them on the concrete in the wake of my laughter.

I’ve let the past fallen behind me.  I’ve held on to the powerful richter-scale-shaking laughter that characterizes my existence.  Those moments in which I can shift from the strength of my joy to the strength of my sense of integrity.

Am I tooting my horn?  Maybe…I’m also watching PBS and listening to my son washing the dishes while scolding the dog for howl-barking at the neighbors.

But I’m happy.  I’m happy with what I am doing and a friend told me today that he was thrilled that I am happy given that he heard a recent statistic that my profession is lucky to keep a third of teachers after three to five years.

I’ve done it.  I’ve beaten so many statistics and I’m going to keep on throwing out those spiky line scales/graphs and just keep on living and learning and exulting in the joy of my world.

Today, my son vented his frustration that a peer in his classes likes to flaunt his wealth.  This same child has also walked by my classroom and likes to insult me, my family, the poverty that he seems to think defines my family and our existence.

Poor child.  We might not have the pretties iPhones.  The nicest clothing.  The most beautiful cars and the cleanest house.

Yeah.  Poor me.

I might not have the most in terms of material wealth.

But I challenge you to a happiness duel.

I’ll beat you hands down.  Cause you will never find your joy within Siri, the labels on your clothing, or the insignia on your car.

And my son is starting to see this as well.

And that is all that matters.

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