By Daniel Summers
We all have deadlines. We all have a bulleted list somewhere that grows faster than it shrinks. I am not, as a habit, a goal setter. I don’t celebrate the New Year as if it were a reset button or a fresh start. I try, often poorly, to be disciplined in the moment and leave happiness as a secondary goal to contentment. And yet, the year is closing, and I am staring at January like it is a circus train cresting the horizon. What wonders, freakish terrors, and obscure arcana await in those painted cars? Should I hop it and join? Should I wait for it to stop and simply be a spectator beneath the Big Top?
I missed last month’s blog. Here, I will list some some excuses: severe strep throat, sick children, crushing debt, injured dog, wrecked car, a literal two foot stack of ungraded papers, apathy, fatigue, depression, undisciplined procrastination, ineptitude, etc…
Really, it matters little. Responsibility is a responsible person’s responsibility. So I sat down and wrote a list of New Year’s resolutions. Essentially, they boiled down to this: “Get your stuff together dude, you are a thirty-five year old teacher and parent. People depend on you. Seriously, wake up on time and stop living for your own excuses. You are not a Martyr!” A fairly good resolution for someone who never sets resolutions–if I don’t say so myself.
Except it is absolute trash. A terrible philosophy. Look, I’m sorry for missing the blog post. I’m sorry it took me three months to grade those papers. I’m sorry I spent more money on coffee and fast food than I did on vegetables. I really am. I feel like less of a person, but it’s not healthy to be so self-deprecating. I want to talk about this.
I sit in PLC meeting and at lunch and I listen to my colleagues talk about stress like it is a card game. I’ll see your abused student with my administrator who won’t answer my email, and I’ll raise you three parent phone calls and one disrespectful State Legislature. They state these things like they are somehow the root cause, the epicenter of all the student’s who are overly tired, all the disgruntled parents, all the poorly thought out laws that make education harder.
I join their chorus. We say, “if only we had more time…” We say, “if only we could be more engaging in the classroom…” We sing it like we own these issues. We don’t.
Here is the reality–there is no shame in admitting that teachers have a lot on their plate. We have more students in our room than we can reach daily. We have lower wages than we need to survive when compared to other educational equivalent professions. We are on the front line of so many social issues: opioid epidemic, poverty, drug abuse, racial awareness, just to name a few. We own our classrooms. We own our lessons. We own our responsibilities. My new New Year’s resolution is to stop owning responsibilities that aren’t mine. I want to start looking at my profession and life like it deserves more recognition–more validation.
I was raised to believe that seeking validation and understanding were signs of weakness. The thing is, when you work in a field like teaching validation and understanding are essential for students and the health of our society. I’m tired of being passive.
Here is my new New Year’s resolution:
I will fight for:
Smaller class sizes
Better laws in the State of West Virginia
Better regulations from the Federal level
Student accountability and autonomy of their learning
My own mental and physical health
The well-being of my students
Mental health for students and teachers
More parent involvement and accountability
Okay, I know that seems like a lot. The thing is, it is all one thing. It is a recognition that everything on that list is not my responsibility. I, and my colleagues, often treat that list like it is something we need to work around when they are not being met.
This year, I say no. It isn’t my responsibility, but we need all of those things. This year, I will fight for them–but I will not let them bog me down and drain my reserve of educational fortitude.
Who is with me?
Wvcte wants to know, what are your new year resolutions? What are you willing to fight for in your school, community, and classroom in 2019?