By Adrin Fisher
Well, it’s that time again. The summer has slipped by like seawater through a sieve, and teachers are back at school shaking off the dust covers and jockeying for position in the Xerox room—or sitting in mind-numbing professional development meetings under florescent lights—or maybe even standing in front of a class of bleary-eyed high school kids with a bright smile plastered on.
Wherever you are in the back-to-school process, teacher-friend, I want to take a few minutes to remind you of the reasons for the season.
Getting up early is a gift. You hear those birds singing what my dad calls the “morning chorus,” or the early-morning commuters and the rumble of heavy trucks—or both, depending on your neighborhood, which reminds you that, even though you may feel like it, you’re not the first one up. Your positive mindset allows you to see an early morning as a reward. The sun starts rising through the fog and clarity comes. A hot beverage, a couple of yoga stretches, a few minutes with your novel or in quiet meditation, and you are invincible.
“Normal” workers around the world probably get sick of routine, but teachers are a special breed. It’s great to have a few weeks of summer with a different set of expectations because we can appreciate the return of normalcy. I enjoy getting my clothes ready on Sunday evenings, hanging them up by outfit, ironed and ready to be grabbed on a weekday morning. We pack lunches before bed. We return to kids’ bedtimes and homework at the dining room table. This fall we have some big changes in our schedule as our older son is moving to high school, but we’ve started practicing earlier wake-up times and we have a morning schedule in place…sort of. Wish us luck!
There is nothing like a new pen fresh from the package, or a smooth, new academic calendar, or a new box of crayons. But even more exciting, teachers get the privilege of looking at a room full of fresh faces. We all start off in the “honeymoon” stage, where we’re just getting to know our students, and whether we have 17 or 140, the classroom is full of possibility. It’s our chance to meet these humans in our charge and make them feel seen and heard. What an honor!
I’ll be the first to admit that starting a new school year is hard. The mornings, the routine, and the newness all contribute to the challenge, but the challenge is also the work. The back-to-school nightmares—dreams of classrooms out of control, missing photocopies, inexplicable requests from the office—started for me in July this year. You?
There are the personal challenges that arise from regular life, family life, being a child and being a parent. There is the personal challenge of simply dealing with many, many vivid personalities all day. Making 1,000,000 decisions during a work day is exhausting, and often leaves me too tired to have an opinion about anything in the evenings.
And beyond that, there are the professional challenges: maintaining a positive outlook in the face of ever-increasing demands to your daily job; working well with difficult colleagues; taking classes or doing professional reading to maintain your certification or stay current in your field; and then, for an English teacher at least, the incessant demands of planning, photocopying, organizing, communicating and correcting-correcting-correcting that writing.
This is not a job for the faint-of-heart, or the lazy. Meet it head-on, teacher-friend. Find your balance. You can do it!
When someone asks you what you do, you say—without hesitation—“I am a teacher.” You use the verb form “to be,” because teaching is more than what you do—it is who you are. Teaching is a calling.
Teaching is an art and a science. It’s a labor of love, a passion.
Teaching is activism. Teachers spark change. It’s in the job description.
Teaching is a response to a real, sincere, measurable need. Students need you. Colleagues need you, especially the newer ones. Teaching is a daily opportunity to serve others with a generous spirit.
It is—as in the days of the warrior-poets of Beowulf—a path to immortality.
Teaching is a profession to be proud of, and you do work worthy of song.
I want to leave you with the words of teacher-poet Taylor Mali, who performed “What Teachers Make” on HBO’s Def Poetry. But rather than quoting him, I’ll let you hear him say it.
Have a wonder-filled, awe-inspiring school year, teacher-friend. Go out there and make a difference, wherever you are and whatever your reason!
WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. What is your reason for the season? Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!
Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not surrounded with her prep calendars and a pile of books, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her reading with her kids, tree bathing in the park, or taking notes on life in her current composition book. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin