Yes, I just watched the movie “Up in the Air.” Yes, I like it because I enjoy traveling. I love packing my real backpack and leaving my metaphorical one at home.
I’m also on fall break right now, which means I have a lot of time to think. I’m doing a lot of reflecting and planning and procrastinating and dwelling. And I’m airing out that metaphorical backpack.
Let’s cut right to the chase. I’m tired. The first quarter of this year was rough. I’m doing my best, and I think doing a pretty good job on most days, but there’s so much to be done. We can be really smart about it, but not with the amount of time we’re given. So we make do.
And we’re losing people. Some of the teachers I’ve relied on to be strong parts of our team are thinking of leaving. In the next six months. In the next year. Hell, some of the new teachers I’m training this year won’t be here in 18 months. It’s part of working in a high need educational area, and I get it. Teaching can be the most rewarding work, but it can also be the most draining. That’s why I don’t begrudge anyone leaving. I think about leaving myself sometimes.
thothermes said “bridge the gap,” in response to this post. I like that sentiment. When I look at my life, though, work isn’t the biggest gap, so I’m not going to worry about making major changes there (even if that’s not what he meant). Just keep plugging away, just keep pushing, and let it carry out from that.
I meant what I said in that post. I think I know why things are difficult, why life is not perfect and why we struggle and why we suffer and feel pain. I mean, I don’t know big, general reasons. I’m not talking philosophy or religion here. I can understand the specifics. I know people leave work because it’s difficult and honestly not the healthiest occupation. It breaks my heart though, because I wish we could make brave choices instead of healthy ones. But I understand why we can’t. Not always. In life, we prioritize. We can’t do everything we want to do. Pick your battles. Can’t save the nation all at once.
So take small steps. Breathe. But this is not where I was going with this post. I want to process one more thing. Hey, process…
In college, we talked about process vs. product when we discussed writing. We said all writing should be process, but at some point you have to be realistic and give it to someone to read. That’s your product, even if it’s never really finished. I feel like teaching’s like that. You’re never really finished. Yes, you have to give kids grades and degrees, but there’s always more kids and you’re never done improving and adjusting how you reach them. School, academia is so much more finite. Even though learning is forever, and you’re never done finding new things to explore in the world, as a student or academic, you have specific goals. You get this degree, then that one. You pass these classes. You write these papers. And then you move on.
In a sense, it’s very comparable. The difference, I think, is that papers, dissertations, books once published are pretty stable. They are measurable quantities by which you might measure your future experiences. Students are dynamic. Their lives, experiences, your influence on them is immeasurable, and I mean that in the biggest and smallest respects of the word. You’ve done this huge thing by ushering a kid into the world, but you know so little about what they’re doing with your influence. It’s so hard to hold on to. And sometimes I feel the need to hold on to something so desperately.
That’s why teaching is not where I need to look at making paradigm shifts. It’s its own beast. Tackle it when you can. Let it roam free when you have to.