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The Privilege of Teaching

It has been almost a month, maybe more, since I had time to write a blog.  A lot has happened in that time, but tonight, as I have time to finally put thoughts to words again, I can’t help but reflect on my job as a whole.  In the last month, I have been humbled in ways I never knew possible. I have to admit that this is my first real experience teaching elementary.  It doesn’t really feel like my first experience because I have been occasional teaching so long, but I haven’t had my own elementary class before so in many ways I am still a rookie.

It blows my mind the amount of impact that I can have on a child’s life and future.  Each day, something happens to remind me of this:

  • the autistic child who comes up to me in the hall, gives me a hug, and tells me that he thinks I am a really great teacher, a child for whom expressing his feelings is difficult
  • the students who, upon hearing my story of bullying and how you get through it and it gets better, look visibly relieved and optimistic in a way they often don’t
  • the student who didn’t want to do a language project, but then can’t wait for language because the light bulb went on and he just needs to tell the story in his head
  • the students who light up and ask dozens of great questions every time you teach them something about life beyond their small town

There are so many of these types of moments, that I can’t help but smile on a daily basis. Teaching, and learning from my students, is an unbelievable privilege that I am so fortunate to have.

On the flip side, I am also humbled by the reminders of all the ways in which I am a fallible human being.  I can put all kinds of structural, emotional, and academic supports in place, I can go above and beyond to give students everything that they should need to be successful, but I can’t make them learn.  I can’t make them behave appropriately.  If they are having a bad day and there is stuff going on at home and they didn’t get their medication, they might explode no matter what I do.  I struggle all the time with how to balance keeping the students who need it safe, while trying to keep the students who need to be apart away from each other in our tiny, overcrowded classrom, while trying to meet the needs of 23 IEPs (Individual Education Plans) out of 31 students.  It can be exhausting!  And exasperating on days where several of them are having difficulty with self-regulation.

I am humbled because no matter how hard I try, I can’t possibly give each student everything they need to succeed.  What one student needs conflicts with what another needs, most of them would benefit from one-on-one attention, many of them would benefit from mental health support, and I am only one person (or rather we are two with my EA, but it’s still not enough).  Some days it hurts that I can’t do more.  I know it could be worse, but I want what’s best for my students, and they deserve more than what I can give them.

So on a day like today, where I have had the privilege to experience both the unbelievably amazing moments of teaching along with the exasperating moments of teaching, I am reminded of my goal of balance.  My days do have some weird sort of balance of highs and lows.  This is my weekend to rediscover some life balance.  I finally have some time to reflect and plan forward.  I finally have some time to get active again.  I finally have some time to spend with my family again.  Maybe, just maybe, if I do this right, I can find some balance moving forward so that I can deal with all of the humbling moments of my day with patience, calmness, and a sense of gratitude for the immense privilege I have to do great work with some amazing people.

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