The Sunday night insomnia has become a real thing. I think it stems from a level of weekend rest that surprises my body after years of withholding the same blended with so many thoughts of the week to come. It is 5:11 a.m. and I have been awake since 2:42. This will make for a rough day, but caffeine and the hopes of a nap will get me through.
I am a high school language arts teacher. I try to avoid hyperbolic statements about most things because they diminish so many other options. (Oh, really? Your mother is the “best mother in the world”? Cool. I’ll let my mom know she has to settle for #2, at best.) My job is not the best or the most fun or the most difficult, but it is great and fun and difficult.
By definition, my job is to teach those on the precipice of adulthood to express their truths by rubbing graphite on a dead tree, pushing buttons, or exhaling in just the right way. When I get it right, a student’s #1 fear can become their #2...or, on a particularly good day, #3. Students who are already smarter than I can learn to organize their brilliance in ways that open doors in their discipline. Students who struggle pick up a trick or two to function better.
That is the one-word goal for all of my students: better.
We don’t always get there. I goof. They goof. Sometimes on the same day and sometimes not. There are a seemingly-infinite number of ways to succeed and we still, sometimes, find the one way to fail. I lose sleep over those moments. I want them back. I want not to have failed a single kid, but teachers are still humans. Sometimes that is forgotten.
These next two weeks will be a whirlwind of projects and speeches and testing we complete to practice for the tests that seem to matter more than just about anything we do the other 170-something days of the school. Fall break is around the corner. You can feel it in the building. There is a tension in the air that happens when teens get worn out and don’t know what to do with it. That will add tears and fights and drama to the next weeks, as well.
This job is strange in a lot of ways. That mixture of emotion and education is our greatest strength and our greatest challenge. Well, our greatest challenge from the inside, at least.
And so I snuggle one more time with my dog and get ready to go teach kids about required forms, nonverbal communication, research skills, and James Thurber. And interpersonal relationships, stress management, calendar planning, and self-care.
And we make it work. And we try to get better. Together.