I never TRULY understood how Bilbo felt...until I started teaching...
I have OFFICIALLY been teaching (as in contract, keys to my own classroom, kickass benefits, etc.) for 18 days now.
So clearly, I'm ready to bestow upon you the wisdom I have gleaned in those days. (Also, it has been almost a year exactly since I've last posted on this dear blog of mine and I just think I need it right now.)
Teaching is hard.
The hardest thing I've ever done (and I sorta saw a man die once).
It's actually amazing to me...how truly, mind-blowingly difficult it is.
And it's not even the teaching that's hard.
I LOVE English.
I love reading and writing. And I love talking about it even more.
That part comes (fairly) easy.
It's the other bullshit.
The pencils being thrown in class. (Actually, just everything being thrown in class.)
The eruption of talking that happens the minute I stop my lecture (or whatever it is) to take a single breath.
The eye-rolling from the girl in the corner that's always smacking her metaphoric gum.
It is the kid that has been sitting in his seat for half an hour and the only thing he has managed to do is pull out a blank sheet of paper. (I explained to him that a whole episode of Spongebob Squarepants had passed in the time it took him to take out that single piece of paper. "Spongebob could have literally just saved all of Bikini Bottom and you couldn't even write your name?!")
And somehow, I'm supposed to dodge the pencils, stifle the noise, halt the eyes, and motivate the severely unmotivated and...teach.
And I just don't know how. I'll be honest, I don't think I'm a very good teacher. My classroom management is abhorrent (despite what I may have said in my interview).
I do my best, but there are days that I feel like I just have no control.
And all I want to do is curl up in a ball.
And cry (which I do).
And drink wine (which I also do).
And it's not because I feel like these students are failing me.
It's because I feel like I am failing them.
I so badly want to make them better readers and scholars and thinkers and believers.
And just all around...better people.
And my fear is that I will FAIL them. That I will leave them even more ill-prepared for life after 8th grade than I found them.
My fear is that they will never learn how to read (or even appreciate) literature.
That they will never be able to articulate their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and research in a (relatively) well-written paper.
That they will give up.
So even though I have all of these fears and doubts...and even though I feel deeply discouraged regularly, (I mean, it's only been 18 days) I decided that the best thing I can do for myself and my 105 students is to...quit.
I'm just kidding.
It's to SHOW UP.
To show up every single day. (And I don't mean just physically.)
Because lessons are going to fail. There are some days I am really going to bomb teaching and they are really going to bomb learning...and that's okay.
And there are some days that we are all going to feel like pulling our hair out...and that's okay too.
Because I'm not giving up on them. (And I'm not going to give up on me either.)
At the end of the day, it's not about the standards or the content or the mind-numbing assessments.
It's about showing students that you care about them.
It's about showing up for them because they deserve to be showed up for.
Because they do!
They all deserve someone who is not just willing, but eager to show up for them every day and give them their best.
To care about them.
To call on them by name and ask them how their day is going.
These students aren't a number on a standardized test.
They are real people.
They need someone to have their back.
And that's what teaching is.
It's having those kids' backs, whether they do well or not.
It's about being the Samwise to their Frodo.
They may never make it to their metaphorical Mordor, but at least they'll know that there is someone in the world that never gave up on them.
It's those 105 awkward, smelly, terribly sassy, even more terribly naive, but oh so hilarious and all around, kind of wonderful 13 and 14-year olds that motivate me to show up for work every single day.
(However, I have decided that I am never having children.)