Next week, I will begin my thirty-sixth year as a classroom teacher. It will certainly be the most bizarre of school years and likely the most challenging. For the majority of teachers who began their career the same year I did, this marks their first year of retirement. And I must admit that, over these summer months, there have been moments when the thought of retiring myself flickered across my mind.
I wondered, “Would it be worth the risk of returning? Am I capable of mastering all of the technology required to teach simultaneously in the classroom and remotely? Can I teach a 90-minute block without having to use the restroom?” These were a few of the questions I pondered, but the most important one was “With what is now a forty year age separation between my students and myself, can I still be relevant and able to empathize with teenagers whose world hardly resembles mine at the same age?” I will have been teaching for twice as many years as they’ve been alive!
Truth be told, my moments of doubt were short-lived, and I determined to, in the words of Jim Harbaugh, “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” It’s a bit hyperbolic, but you get the point. These past six months have left me discombobulated. Without a classroom and a roster full of students, I’m not totally sure who I am. I certainly need them as much, if not more, than they need me. Therefore, Monday, August 31, will find me introducing myself to a classroom full of teenagers not exactly breathlessly waiting to dive into English Literature or to learn the finer points of academic writing.
At the end of the day, it’s not the content I teach that I hope my students take with them. Rather, it’s the life lessons, which I try so desperately to connect with the content, such as:
- Life is not fair. Only children and fools expect it to be.
- There are few mindsets more debilitating, worthless, or unattractive than self-pity. Get over it.
- Fear is the biggest obstacle to achievement and growth you will have to overcome. Take solace in knowing that everyone is just as afraid as you are. Tuck your chin, broaden your shoulders, gird your loins (That is so weird.) and be bold – even if you have to fake it – for the world loves a confident woman/man.
- Question everything that you’ve been told is right, true, or good. If after careful discernment you still feel that way, great! If not, it’s time to figure out what is.
- You can dislike another’s ideas without disliking them.
- Feelings are more delicate than thoughts. Never tell someone how they should feel, especially because it makes you uncomfortable.
- At some point, you have to stop blaming others for whatever shortcomings you possess or predicaments you face. However, you also need to realize that some people are born on third base and act like they hit a triple, while others have to scratch and claw just to get an opportunity to have an at-bat. Be sympathetic and lend a hand to the latter.
- The harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.
- The things most worth having rarely come easily.
- Always, always, always forgive and always choose love.
So with hands sanitized, masked, and from behind a Plexiglass screen, I’ll be returning for year thirty-six.
I can’t wait!
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