“Miss, I thought chapter eleven was super random. Why did we need to read for a whole chapter about some old lady addicted to drugs and Jem reading to her every day?”
“That’s a good question. Why put it in there? How did Mrs. Dubose get addicted in the first place?”
“It was morphine, right? Isn’t that a prescription drug?”
“Yeah, it was a prescription drug, so how was it bad for her and why did she want to kick it before she died?”
And then, from the last row of the classroom, another student pipes up. “Well it’s like what Shakespeare was trying to say in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ ‘Virtue itself turns to vice being misapplied…” That applies here as well, right?
I took a bow and let the curtain fall. End scene.
Not really. I actually grabbed my chest and tears welled up in my eyes. For real tears. I said, “People! Did you just hear what Courtney said?! Courtney! Say it again.” And she did. And I was done. Like seriously. I felt like I could close up shop because she got it. She made connections and used prior knowledge and saw the big picture and applied it to her own life. Praise the good Lord! I think, ladies and gentleman, that she is learning.
We have all been there. You could fill my comments section (No really. Feel free.) with stories of your chest-clutching, tear jerking moments in the classroom. Moments where the lightbulb metaphor is too trite to describe what happened when a kid just “got it.” That is why we keep going, even in May.
What the doubters will say is that we keep going in May because we are weeks away from a “three-month vacation,” which for the record is actually two months. This ain’t 1974. Others will say that we keep going because “Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” They will say we don’t have anything else to “fall back on” or we are just “in it for the paycheck.” Just kidding. No one says that.
I believe that we are in it because that’s what we are created to do. We were born to teach.
I feel like Tiger Woods was born to golf. (Did she seriously just go there?) I believe he has an innate gift that he honed into greatness. From a young age he had innate skills that, paired with his incredible work ethic and intense training and a very sharp mind, made him the greatest golfer on earth. (While you’re welcome to share your chest-clutching stories, please don’t feel obligated to argue with me about the greatest golfer of all time. It’s a metaphor. Let it go.) But he let outside forces and temptations that had nothing to do with the actual act of hitting a ball in a hole detract him from the gift. And then he came crashing down from greatness. That did not take away his innate gift, but man did it take away his effectiveness.
We do that. The outside forces – and sometimes those voices from within – derail us. And right now, the outside forces and the forces within are saying, “You’re finished.” Those forces are tempting us to clock out or to grit our teeth and suck it up and just get it over with. Those forces are telling you that since the kids don't care, you don't have to either. But I challenge you to bench those forces.
In four weeks you have time to write a kind email to a parent, celebrating his child. You can thank an administrator or teacher who has had your back. You can smile, and not just because you're picturing the freedom that comes from that final school bell.
You are so gifted at this job, but you're tired. I get that. But you have four weeks left. Teach with the passion and joy and enthusiasm that is deep within you. Your kids will love it. You will love it. And the greatness that is within you will shine.
Father, I confess that I am tired and cranky and, quite frankly, over it. Please restore my energy and joy. Show me the many reasons that I am here everyday, serving kids and serving you. I don't have it in me to muster up what it takes to be patient, light, cheery; fill me with more of You so that, instead of my exhaustion and exasperation, kids see You. Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to be the light in Your name. Amen