As I was driving to work this morning, I was nervous. I teach 14-16 year old students who are curious and quite willing, or rather compelled, to say whatever it is that they are thinking. This sometimes includes rude remarks, inappropriate comments, ill-timed jokes, and unrelated questions. I was nervous what types of questions and comments I would be hearing today in my classroom. I was nervous they would call each other names, make assumptions about each other and their families and the people who make up this country, lose faith in the democratic process, and write off the decisions that the people made. I was nervous they would be discouraged and jaded by yesterday.
Rather than avoiding these discussions and hoping that my students would figure it all out on their own before the age of 18, I decided to meet it head-on. I started each class today by asking if anyone had questions about the events that took place yesterday. What happened was a series of small moments when I got to look at the quiet faces of these kids (who are rarely quiet); they care and they understand the seriousness of the situation. Today was not a discussion of who voted for whom or why either of the candidates are the way they are; it was a discussion of “What now?”
I have been a teacher for the last six years, and in those years, I have experienced far too many deaths of teenagers. They are not always my students, but they always affect my students and community, whom I love, care for, even admire. These kids are stronger than many give them credit for. They are more compassionate than often expected. They feel more than they let on.
Today, we lost another one of our young, promising kids. Today is a tough day. But we are a family–all of us: the human race. It is in times of tragedy that we see this the most.
Today I sit with the family of my school. We aren’t standing; we are sitting, weeping, hugging, finding our strength in each other’s arms. We take this day to pause with one another. Tomorrow, we will help each other to stand and move forward, always remembering, but still continuing on.
Every day, let us remember that we are all a family. That we have the ability, the power, the responsibility to love and support one another. If we remember this, then maybe we will begin to see a little less tragedy.
To all of my family in Christ, throughout the world, let us be the brothers and sisters He created us to be.
It’s been a difficult school year for me. And yesterday was particularly difficult. I was feeling down, feeling slightly defeated, feeling inept at my job. A few things then happened, though:
- I got an out-of-the-blue message from a past student, “just checking in–I hope all is well.” I mentioned briefly that it had been a rough day (as I was at the end of my day) but that overall life is going wonderfully (which it absolutely is, but that’s sometimes difficult to remember throughout a tough work day). We then entered into a conversation in which this now grown-up reminded me that I am good at my job, that I make a difference, that I impacted his life.
- I was reminded by this simple conversation that I have a box of letters that students have written me, and it is a solid reminder that I am doing good work here. This box is currently packed in a bigger box as I prepare to move houses, but just knowing it exists was surprisingly encouraging.
- I had dinner with my family. They always know how to cheer me up and build me up. They listen and share in my plights, validating how I feel, but also bringing kind words to remind me why I do what I do.
- I got a sweet note from my incredible fiance. He had earlier placed it in my lunch box, to find when I packed it this morning. His encouragement and love fills me up and gives me more love to share with my students and the world.
As the school year is fast approaching, I’ve been spending time setting up my classroom, my teacher website, my lesson plans, and all that other fun stuff. However, I will admit that last weekend, I was wishing I had just a few more weeks before going back.
Now that I’m actually delving into the heart of my preparations though, I am excited for a new year, new students, new opportunities, but I also relish in the familiarity of it all. The previous dread of going back to work has turned into joy sprinkled with a little anxiousness. While many of you may not be teachers, I think there is something to be learned here about “getting back into the swing” of anything, not just teaching.