You may be walking wounded, but Teacher, stay in the game!
We are all walking wounded. We all have things that have hurt is in life: personal or professional situations that have left us limping. While it would be nice to go into the struggles of our lives with muscles rippling like a well-oiled Apollo or Athena in all the grandeur of a fresh rest on Olympus and a brief appearance to do battle among humankind -- that isn't what happens in life. Far from appearing like ancient gods, we all have our flaws. Chinks in our armor...holes in our thesis, a wilt in our leaves-- whatever your analogy, if you're reading this with breath in your nostrils - you and me are both mortal and imperfect.
I share stories from my life because it is the stories of life that teach me. When I feel the emotion and struggle, that is when I learn things. Last night my son's football team was playing an excellent, strong, fast team in the state quarter finals. With 4 minutes left, he got up from the bottom of the pile limping. But he was walking it off trying to pretend like nothing was wrong. When the coach called time out, my son wouldn't look him in the eye because he didn't want him to know he was hurt. He is a senior, he loves the sport, and he's played his whole life for this moment - to be a team captain in a state playoff ballgame. He wasn't coming out -- but he was the walking wounded. The other team saw him limping and started driving the ball to that side. My son was hurt but he was there -- raising his arm to block a pass and struggling to shut down a guy who was as fast as the wind. (We won -- oh yes, we did.)
As I worried about his unknown injury -- as his Mom, I knew he was hurting badly -- I thought to myself. "What is the alternative? Who is going to take his spot? The boys on the sidelines have their own issues- some have inexperience and others can't go in from prior injuries. Honestly, they are all walking wounded and someone has to play and take care of this game. He's telling himself -- this is the game I was born to play and I'm going to leave it all on the field."
Then it hit me. That's me and that's you. Teaching and parenting are tough -- they aren't sports, they are very real, important life -consuming callings. Whether you're dealing with screaming fussy tots, the elementary kids taking naps on cots, the middle school "I'm nots" or the high school big shots -- it is enough to leave you wounded, frayed, and exhausted. By now, if you're reading this on a Saturday, you're probably "over the top" tired like me.
You're the walking wounded. It is so easy to wish to be taken out of the game. When I'm exhausted and have what feels like a thousand kids in my room, I ask myself, probably like you, how much longer can I play in this game? How am I going to have the fortitude to make it?
I've always felt like summer time is the time for educators to heal and for parents to feel --what is like to handle their kids day in and day out. (They are always ready to give them back' aren't they?)
But what happens when you're smack dab in the middle of the game, hurt? What happens when it is the middle of the school year and you're so tired from coaching a sport or a drama team or getting ready for prom,or managing another sale -- on top of your regular teaching duties-- that you don't know if you can see straight? What happens when you've got a crisis or two on the home front and you wake up tired every day wondering how you're going to make it?
What do you do when you're wounded and all that is in you wants to come out?
Well... you rest for the brief moments you have...and then, you realize, like my son, like me-- that this is the job you were born to do. This is your moment. Do what you were called to do. Live a life full of purpose -- because, I guarantee you, you may not know it, but your students are wounded too.
Teaching isn't all neat and tidy like it looks on the films. I've had 3 film crews in my classroom and none of them really captured IT. It is a wild and crazy place. I'm pushing kids to do more...sometimes some of them who have been told what to do all their lives and just want me to do it for them (these kids tend to like being an automaton mindlessly completing worksheets)...they actually cry or try to shut down on me. I have to take everything I have to reach within and help bring them back to a place where they can think on their own and solve problems.
Sometimes the light bulb goes on and they jump out of their seats and say "I'm so excited, I feel good about myself because I did that" (it happened just yesterday) or they stay in their seats when the bell rings spellbound by something we're discussing and not wanting to leave.
Sometimes they are crying on my shoulder because a parent or friend crushed their emotions. Sometimes they are making sideways glances at each other as I'm angry - talking to them about the character traits of life that they must remember. (Mrs. Betty, my curriculum director, always says - even if you think it won't change them and even if you've given the lecture a thousand times - TELL THEM - SAY IT - MEAN IT - don't let the moment or situation pass without interjecting your emotion and perspective into it. She's right. If something needs to be said, I'll say it -- I'm not here to be popular, I'm here to change their lives and sometimes that means I need to be sandpaper upon the rough splinters of character traits that will get them in trouble.)
But this is our fight -- our game, if you will. This is our moment. There is no such thing as a rested teacher. There is no such thing as a teacher without wounds. We are the walking wounded. There are a lot of coaches on the sidelines and lots of edu-casters telling us how to play this game - but we are the ones on the field. We are the ones in the fray - doing this job every day. Lots of gray haired men sit around in coffee shops scratching their beards saying what educators today need to do -- and lots of newspaper writers do too. But many of those very same people who second guess both sports and the classroom wouldn't be able to take one minute in either place. Talking about the game should never be mistaken for actually having played it.
You can and you do every single day. You live this job and you do this job! You're in it -- and so am I. I don't want to be any where else in this world but right in this classroom with my students. I'm completely and utterly crazy about them and my subject. I'm also sometimes completely and utterly driven crazy by them and struggle to adequately cover my subject.
Things worth doing are hard but this is worth doing and worth doing well. I don't know why it was such an epiphany for me to realize that we're all walking wounded. I guess I've just been hoping that somehow I'd feel my heart heal up and know that I'm rested so I can unleash all that energy on my students. But daily, right now, I just pray for strength to meet THIS day - to make another play -- one play at a time. Because too short, this game will be over, I'll be a senior, and the season will be done. Like a kid looking into the stadium lights at midfield on his last regular season game and feeling every breeze and hearing every yell from the stands, I want to relish this craziness - because when it is over, it is over.
One of the mottos of our team, besides the Phillipians 4:13 that the boys wear on the black under their eyes -- is "give it all and leave nothing on the field." I intentionally put this sign from last week's game in this post because that is what we must do.
As we feel ourselves being poured out -- the day I retire, I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt - like my son can after last night's game -- that I gave all I had to my students and left it all in the classroom. I do want to have a life after school - but this is important and I want to give all I have to my students.
Here's to you, my friends, my colleagues, my heroes. You are the ones - not on the sidelines - but IN thiS every day. You educators are my intended audience and my unending heroes. You know exactly what I'm feeling and saying. Kind of like those who talk about having a baby and those who've actually done it -- the real thing -- life in the trenches -- it is the only way to really understand how tough and rewarding teaching can be.
Keep at it. It is work worth doing. It would be nice if all the kids were nice and the parents were nice and the workload was manageable but that isn't the reality of teaching - it never has been and never will be.
We don't work in a factory or a short order kitchen -- what we do takes time and gives us very little feedback - so I'm your personal feedback today.
KEEP IT UP. KEEP GOING. YOUR WORK IS VERY IMPORTANT. YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT. BE STRONG. Rest and remember and get ready to go back in on Monday. STAY IN THE GAME -- but teaching isn't a game -- it is real life and you're vitally important to a generation struggling to make meaning and nations struggling to buoy in tough times. The responsibility to help guide a new generation of global leaders is our goal and it is our time to make the play. This isn't a play... it is our day and our time to make a difference. You matter, very much. More than you know. So, don't go - stay in the game -- get some rest and do your best. That is enough. You are enough. You're more than enough - YOU ARE VITAL.
Remember your noble calling, teacher.
- Written on my iPad using Blog Press by Vicki Davis, author, Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds