August 16, 2016
It’s pouring outside my window in Yorktown (and it’s been pouring on and off for the past 5 days, it seems.) I’ve been feeling under the weather, due to the weather, and the exposure to a zillion new germs in the past few weeks, and the fact that I don’t know how to manage my time yet and find a little headspace to be alone now and then. But you know I’m all about that grace at this point in my life.
I wake up each morning and still have a hard time figuring out how to make my feet hit the floor before the sun is up. I’ve said this, in jest, a few times, but quite often, my first coherent thoughts of the day are, “Oh God, please, no,” right after I turn off my alarm and recognize the warmth of my blankets against the chill of the air.
But here’s the thing. I go to school each morning and make ready my classroom for twenty-two wide-eyed, adorable kiddos. I’m actually there. I’m doing the thing that I said I would do. I’m writing that here, now, trying to remind myself of that.
I moved into Yorktown about 3 weeks ago. I’m tucked into an old room of my cousin’s at my aunt and uncle’s house. I spent a week scrambling to piece together a classroom that would be a potentially welcoming and hopefully safe place for 9-year-olds to learn and dance, and then they came in fleets, charging towards me through the hallways, whether I felt ready or not.
And each day they return, whether I feel ready or not. But they hug me and they smile. They walk up to me as I’m mid-sentence, teaching, and they tell me about their puppies at home or their after-school tai kwon do or their little sisters…
Each and every day I’m up to my ears in assessments to grade, emails to answer, sessions to attend, lessons to plan, materials to sort, papers to print, and kiddos to herd.
And, friends, I’m a first-year teacher. I wake up each morning and wonder if I’ll be a complete failure. I wonder how much of this will be worth all of the Crayola marker on my hands and the relentless beating on my immune system. I’m seeing the time that this career will take from me, and all of the sunrises I will miss over my lifetime. And, like any sane person, I’m terrified.
I’d love to try to convince you now that I’m saying all this, knowing that I’ll be happy, but that would be contrary to the summer heartwork I’d begun in honesty and commitment. Maybe my life is not about my fulfillment. Thoughts.
BUT. My students are a wonder to me. They devour so much of life. They enter school wanting to learn. They have such curiosity and light; they want so desperately to do the right thing. I see myself as a third grader in their shoes.
There’s a lot of pressure on teachers, and I’ve been functioning at a sub-human, overwhelmed state for the past month, but when that kiddo looks up at me as we’re standing in line to go to lunch, our eyes meet, and he just beams, that’s priceless.
I’ve had to accept that I will be carrying around this crippling incompetence for a while. This is the third week of the first year of my career. I barely know my way around my school. But my kiddos don’t see that. They know I love them; they know that I love to sing, dance, read, and hike. They know that they need to do their best and that I have things under control.
I feel thrust out on the doorstep of the “real world,” unceremoniously, sort of unexpectedly, kind of like my students on their first day: wide-eyed, timid, sloppy, and overwhelmed. I’m making choices, like how to group my students and how to challenge their learning, and I’m making choices, like how to plan my retirement fund and which dental coverage to choose. And I make mistakes. But there’s so much ownership entrusted to me, with far fewer safety nets than I found before. So, I guess I’ll rise to the occasion. Not because I’m a valiant, competent grown-up now, but because I’ve chosen to step into a career when the opportunity arose.
I feel this weight of clueless incompetence constantly, and the tension between that and the anxious excitement of all the new possibilities. But it reminds me to stay humble, ask questions, and have a little grace. So I go to bed early. I drink 3 cups of tea. And I try hard to laugh at myself.
In truth, I am not where I thought I would be right now. Not in a bad way, just a different place. But I think I traded in some ego for some reality, and it would punch me in the gut despite the time zone in which I found myself. But I am blessed. The people around me have experience, gusto, connections, and an incredible willingness to help. There’s so much life here; there’s so much to learn. I hope for the courage to experience as much of it as I can and the strength to grow with it.
Thanks for sticking with me.