The weight of it burdens me before dark: the students who struggle, the teachers who I’m asked to support when I can barely support myself, the spinning cycle of meeting after meeting that leads to nowhere. Fast.
Coming home to kids crying over homework, kids spending their lives addicted to screens, to screens that fill my world with the darkness that will always be The Trump Era.
If only I had the guts of Eminem and could shout to the world, “I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against.”
If only I had the guts to face the days I face with that same passion, that same tenacity.
Today I pulled out a trick that I learned from an old teacher during my first year of teaching. A kid who wouldn’t sit down, who wouldn’t stay on task, whose house I’ve called too many times, whose hallway conversations have led to nowhere. A kid throwing papers and pestering his friend across the room.
“M, how fast do you think you can run to the end of that hallway and back?”
His incredulous stare went from my eyes to my watch.
“I’m timing you.”
And so he ran. A couple of other boys standing in the hall whispered, “You’re allowing him to do that?” A teacher came out of her room to investigate. But he ran. Fast.
And when he came back to class? He wrote me the first full paragraph of the school year. Therefore, that one small action, that one small accomplishment, made my fifth period a relative success today for the first time, eight weeks in.
Yet the failures stack up all around me. Student test scores. Apathetic teachers. Overburdened teachers. Unfilled forms and lost money. My oldest trapped in a class she can’t succeed in. My youngest trapped in a cycle of doubt over math skills. My house trapped in a temperature of sixty-four degrees and no furnace repairman available till the end of the month.
And it’s getting cold. Fast.
Yet the sun still shines, as it always will in Colorado, so often mocking my mood. The stars come up over our street where six of our kids run up and down the block making merriment with the neighbors, where Isabella is asked to babysit, where our kitties keep us warm and this is the first day this week I’ve had to make dinner thanks to the blessing of another family who shares our home and a mother who knows how to cook better than me.
And my principal, the realist, the perfectionist that she is, has praised me once again.
So the burden of early-morning doubt may still wake me in the morning. I will tear myself up over scoring teachers and wish I could be a better teacher myself. I will go to meetings where I will likely feel inadequate, where I will feel like we’re getting nowhere. I will coax Riona through subtracting fractions and give in to Mythili’s Halloween costume extravagance. I will run Girl Scout meetings and hope that these young minds capture, for a moment, the power of feminine collectivity.
I might even ask M to run up and down the hallway again. Fast.