Snow. It’s really all I can see. There is no Spring in sight. No sunlight, unless it is reflecting dangerously in my eyes from all of the white stuff on the ground. I’m all for a little snow, but seriously Arkansas? Isn’t this a little much?
So, I have had ten snow days this year (make that eleven, I just got the call for today), and it is only February 4. I am hoping that we don’t get anymore. I’ve been struggling a little bit trying to figure out what to do on this blog. I’ve recently finished a couple of books that I still need to review, but more than reviews I wanted to update you on my life recently.
I went through a bit of a rough patch with life, and it all stemmed from my attitude about my job. Really, my attitude about my career choice. I was feeling trapped in this never-ending cycle of taking the things my learners said personally, even when I knew deep down that what they were saying was not a reflection of me or of them, but just of their teenager-ness. I was so down that I dreaded going to work and having to deal with them. I started disengaging from what I really do love about teaching: pairing learners with books and watching them enjoy reading.
I became self-centered and self-focused. I was writing all the time, but none of it rang true, none of it felt right. A serious attitude check was in order. I was not kind to myself. I learned a bit about myself and gave myself some tough love. The first and most important thing I learned during this process of searching for clarity: if I don’t write reflectively about something, I have a really hard time understanding it. I was trying so hard to keep my writing life and my teaching life separate that I was detrimentally affecting both of my worlds. I hated teaching, but I couldn’t get to the root of the problem because I was refusing to write about it. It was a vicious circle, and I was stuck.
When I finally did write about it, it was Nathan who gave me the idea. I didn’t even think it up myself. And because I typically follow his advice, I did write about it, and I didn’t like what I found out about myself.
You see, I realized that the problem wasn’t teaching at all. I still love teenagers, no matter how annoying I find them. I still love reading young adult literature and sharing it with them. What I didn’t love was the fact that I had stopped putting my best effort into teaching. I was spending so much of my time writing that I had completely lost sight of what I should be doing to support my learners. When I realized this, it was like a very swift slap in the face.
My mom and dad and family in general taught me that the smartest and wealthiest don’t always succeed; the one who succeeds is the one who works the hardest. I had always been that “one who works the hardest,” but for some reason I had lost sight of that.
I apologized and told the people who were closest to me what was going on. They were as supportive as they always are when I need them, and I made a very tough decision. For the last two months, I have focused on teaching. That is my job. Most of my kids will not get another chance at ninth grade, so I have to give them the best that I have. I had to put aside for a little while my creative writing until I could more easily juggle the two lives.
Most importantly, I changed my perspective and stopped taking the things my kids said personally. Comments like “I hate reading” and “This is stupid” would no longer phase me. I prepared my comebacks: “Your perspective on this is your issue. In order to be the best person that you can be, you need to be a reader. Readers make a difference. Readers experience life.”
I have kept writing in my journal, of course (it’s the only way that I can ever find clarity), but I no longer try to keep teaching out of my journal. After a couple of months of so much negativity, I have had four really good weeks at school. I chose literature that was both difficult and enlightening. I chose stuff that I knew would get their attention. I asked for help from some of the best English teachers that I know.
Mostly, I started working hard again. I didn’t tell you all of this to make you feel sorry for me. On the contrary, I wanted you to know some of the struggles that I have faced and overcome. I wanted you to know that hard work and perspective are two of the most difficult things to understand and apply in our lives. I wanted you to know that I love teaching, and that I am exactly where I am meant to be.