Friday, August 19, 2016

Lucky Number Three

Well, Monday begins my third year of teaching. My third! Remember when I didn't think I would make it past year one? And here I am, spending hours prepping food for the many hours I will be spending at school this week. But this year, I'm feeling more inspired than ever. I'm exhausted and I'm worn down to the ground before anything has really even started, but in the very best way possible. 

Pure exhaustion
I had a thought the other day as I was driving to school. I reflected on the time when that very drive (okay, maybe not that VERY drive, seeing as I moved, but you get what I'm saying) used to be filled with such anxiety and dread, and now it's filled with such a sense of calm, and even excitement. I love teaching and while I am well aware that my little freshman babies will likely drive me up the wall on more than one occasion, I also know that I'll grow to love them. 

Will provide cupcakes in exchange for manual labor
became a teacher because I had so many incredible teachers along the way - from Pre-K all the way to senior year, and I knew very early on that I wanted to have the opportunity to positively impact teenagers the way so many of them positively impacted me. After all, they were the ones I saw day after day after day. They were going to have some sort of impact on me. And while I went into the profession thinking I was going to change the world (Hook 'em Horns!) and that I was going to be the one who had the impact on them, it's my students who have had such a lasting impact on me. I'm supposed to be the one teaching, but I'm also doing a heck of a lot of learning.

English 1 PLC: Places Ladies Converse
It's extremely tough to be a teenager today. They have every form of social media known to man, and I love social media. I do. I think it's great, and I've talked about this before, but these poor kids are glued to their phones for fear of missing out on something. And pics or it didn't happen, right? And pictures make it very clear that you did miss out on something. I know what it feels like when someone who you thought was your friend invites your entire friend group to your lake house for the holiday weekend, but doesn't extend the invitation to you. And when everyone else asked where you are, because in any other circumstance I would be laughing and taking pictures to later post on Facebook or MySpace (if that was even still a thing), she simply replies that I had other plans and couldn't make it. To see those photos at the end of the weekend, and to know that I had missed out on it really hurt. Don't worry, we have since moved past that, and I was even a part of her wedding last summer, but high schoolers deal with stuff like this on a regular basis.

And not only that, but they have seen a lot. A lot more than I saw when I was their age. This summer alone has been filled with violence and unrest and profiling and horrible language, and this has sadly become the new norm. We've almost become desensitized to violence because it happens so frequently. I turn on my television in the morning praying that another hashtag hasn't been created as a result of something that happened over night. Nationally or internationally. And my principal said it best when he told us to be aware that some of our kids don't have the means to even begin to process all that has happened. 

Many people say (and write article upon article upon article about it) that this generation of kids doesn't know how to respect adults or property, that they're violent and lazy, that they don't care about anyone but themselves, that they make poor decisions, and a plethora of other negative comments toward this generation of kids. And I've caught myself saying similar things from time to time. But my principal shared a video with us during our last whole-faculty session of PD on Thursday and I had tears in my eyes as the word EMPATHY was tattooed on my brain.

This video, without saying a word, said it all. The question at the end: "If you had the knowledge of another person's experiences - what they see, what they hear, what they feel - would it change the way you respond to individuals?" We don't know the battles that other people are fighting, and when I start to lose my mind over the fact that a kid didn't come to school with a pencil, or that homework assignments are consistently turned in half-completed, that's what I want to remember. That while each student should absolutely be held to a high standard one hundred percent of the time, they're also not robots, and sometimes there are situations outside their realm of control that are affecting them on a daily basis. I have to remind myself that many of them don't lead the pretty idyllic childhood that I did. I didn't know what it was like to work the closing shift at a clothing store or a fast food restaurant. I thought I had it rough being shuttled from school volleyball practice to club volleyball practice and then back home to work on homework. Empathy is my theme going into this school year, and I have to remember that I have such a unique opportunity to be someone stable in the lives of kids who may or may not have stability anywhere else. I can care for these students right there in that moment, and lend a listening ear. Maybe I don't have all the answers, but I can help them work through what they're facing right now. Sure, it's a different generation of kids (says my 24-year-old self), but you know what? They deserve everything we've got.

And I have to take a minute to brag on my principal. He's one incredible leader. And I'm not just saying that because he may or may not come across this post one day. I'm saying it because it's the truth. He challenges his staff, he encourages his staff, and he certainly doesn't let us stay inside our comfort zones. He tells us over and over again that working at Bellaire is like swimming in the deep end. It's never going to be easy, but it's worth it. He never lets us settle, and that's the way it should be. He pushes us to push our kids to be the best they can be. And every single day I am so incredibly grateful to be under his leadership. To be under a leadership of a man who believes relationships matter. That these kids matter, and that our job is to help them on their way to a new beginning.

And not every day is going to be easy. I can watch all the inspiring videos in the world, and there are still going to be days where I leave the building close to tears, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like I'm not qualified enough to stand up in front of these kids, feeling as though I'm doing them a disservice. It's a hard job, absolutely, but it's absolutely the best job.

My third year of teaching begins on Monday, and I'm nervous. 30+ pairs of eyes every single class period will be staring at me, waiting for me to talk. But I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way. A colleague and I were on our way to the Office Max in Meyerland during a break in PD this last week (What you hear is true! Teachers really do spend their own hard-earned money so that their students will actually have writing utensils.) and he turned to me and said, "Pickles, I'm nervous! This is my 28th year of teaching and I still get nervous for the first day of school." My first thought was, "Oh, thank God I'm not alone," and my next was that I think bring nervous after 28 years is a good thing. Because that means you still care.

Monday will bring a new crop of kids into my life, and I'm so excited to meet them. My classroom has been way too quiet, and certainly way too clean, without them. Three has been my lucky number forever. So here's to making this school year the best one yet!

1 comment:

  1. I think it's so great you're willing to give of your time. I was actually very awkward and made fun of constantly as a young boy. I used fitness to dig my way out of that and to gain self confidence. I agree with you that today social media can have a huge impact on peoples lives. Some for good and some for bad. Keep helping others, it makes a difference.

    - Tanner Chidester

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