This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. If you asked me this morning what word defined me more between, "teacher," or "appreciated," I would have signed my name and turned in an incomplete quiz much like the reading quiz 'completed' by my 6th period class of sophomores yesterday. To be quite frank, I've never been so unorganized, so overwhelmed, and so unsure of myself as a teacher. It was easy when the only 'kids' in my life were a classroom full of 16-year-olds. Throw giving birth, raising a baby, and balancing motherhood into the mix, and you have an entirely new ballgame.
And somewhere in this balance, it's hard to remain confident in one, if not all of these very important roles.
It all started with a bad hair day. An unmade bed, a skipped breakfast, and a nasty hangnail.
Okay, not too bad yet.
My morning classes were anything but engaging or challenging for both parties involved. Typically, when my students tell me my class goes by really quickly, I take that as a compliment. Today, however, I noticed my students checking their phones for the time about as often as I checked mine. I had a lot on my mind, and To Kill a Mockingbird just wasn't one of them.
My precious planning time was lost today due to the Senior Awards Assembly. As a senior 'advisor' this year, I have supervised, advised, or 'advocated for' twelve specific seniors over the last four years. It's a big year, as this is the first class I taught, and the first class I've seen all the way through. Long story short, being a senior advisor involves a lot: organizing graduation rehearsal, helping with yearbook pictures, looking over scholarship essays, writing recommendation letters, presenting special awards to deserving seniors, helping students fill out fafsa forms, agonizing over a senior speech I have been charged to write, and tonight, attending a culminating project by each individual senior, referred to as, 'The Senior Presentation.' It was going to be a long, 13-hour day at school, and a stroller and smiling baby were calling my name.
After the Senior Awards Assembly, I scooted my way down to the cafeteria to grab some lunch. About halfway down the stairs to the basement, I realized I was getting a migraine. I've only experienced the whole migraine thing a couple other times, but it's pretty obvious when you are getting one. I couldn't see straight, couldn't walk straight, and given an opportunity, I may have started speaking in tongues. I actually shut my office door for fifteen minutes and laid my head on my desk. I couldn't read an email, I couldn't stand up, and I couldn't think straight...
...and I only had about six more hours to go.
As I watched the Word document files fill up on my desktop and block the sweet black and white picture of my little man, I couldn't help but see a living metaphor in front of my eyes. The work was clouding my vision of what was real. My desk in my office is a complete mess, I'm behind on grading by weeks, and I spilled salsa on my new dress.
I felt defeated.
And then I snuck away to a senior's presentation. A senior who I haven't had in class since her sophomore year. A senior who stuck a picture of me and her friends on her Power Point, and talked about her American Literature class as a defining moment in her high school, as well as her own personal development. She remembered little things we had discussed in class, movies we watched, books we read, and made connections that allowed her to see her future differently. She talked about studying the Romantics and Transcendentalists, and realizing that her life could be more than the one-size-fits-all model that is often so beat into the minds of teenagers. She realized that she had things to say, and what she had to say mattered...to herself, to others, and to her future. A future that involves writing, an English major, and maybe even English teaching.
I was transformed. I realized at that moment that what we do for these kids really does matter. The careful discussion questions, texts, and activities really do impact kids. Our 'jobs' make up their worlds, worlds that are so fragile, so vulnerable, and so in need.
This is what it's all about. Realizing the impact of what it is we do. That, makes the piles of papers worth it. Because someday, my son is going to have teachers. Teachers that could quite possibly be sitting in my classroom, reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and trying to figure out where it is they belong in this big world of ours.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.