Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Hardest Part...

Dear Students,

Several weeks ago, you asked me what the hardest part of being a teacher was. I desperately wanted to blurt out that "You! You are the hardest part about being a teacher!" We were in the midst of another stranglehold on each other's patience, so I can't be held entirely at fault. But I didn't, and I'm glad because for just a moment, you seemed interested. Thoughtful, even.

I told you that getting kids to care about something that they think they don't care about was the hardest part. I'm sure I was right at that moment, but I'm not sure I'm right now. I've thought about your question often since then, wondering what I would say if you asked me again.

The hardest part is caring -- getting you to care, yes, but it's also hard for me to care about you without being consumed by it.

The hardest part is management. Every 51 minutes, 5 days a week, I am met with a new team of 15-27 employees in the midst of hormonal turmoil.

The hardest part is watching your faces and calculating the slump of your shoulders or the width of your smiles in order to plan our interactions for the day.

The hardest part is when I miscalculate and ruin both of our days with the wrong words, the wrong tone, the wrong first step.

The hardest part is saying "I'm sorry" and meaning it. For both the student and the teacher.

The hardest part is choosing a lesson that will interest you as well as educate you and then delivering it 17 different ways until it is perfect for you. For each of you. And sometimes 17 isn't enough.

The hardest part is juggling all of your needs. Yesterday, I cleaned up a vomiting student in the hall and did not stop teaching my lesson even as I tied up the biohazard bag from the doorway. Even in the midst of chaos, the show must go on. The show must always go on.

The hardest part is that vomit wasn't even the worst thing I had to hear yesterday.

The hardest part is watching you throw away your opportunities because you think it will get the attention of those who have proven they don't care.

The hardest part is the moment you realize that no matter what you do, no matter how you wreck yourself, they still don't care.

The hardest part is enduring your disrespect and anger because it's too hard for you to respect and love yourself.

The hardest part is letting you fail and hoping it becomes a wake-up call and not a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The hardest part is forgiving, even when it's not asked for.

The hardest part is telling the truth, even when it hurts.

The hardest part is holding my tongue, keeping my patience, and being kind when I'd rather just be human.

The hardest part is knowing when to stand firm and when to walk away.

The hardest part is trying to get you to think when all you want is to be fed, to live when all you can do is survive, to rise when all you've ever done is fall.

The hardest part is not really the paperwork or meetings or long hours grading. In fact, the hardest part of teaching usually has nothing to do with teaching.

But if it wasn't a hard job, then everyone could do it.

And the last thing I want to be like is everyone else in your lives.

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