Even though I’m semi-retired and summers now tend to be my busiest time of year, I still fall back on a few of my old habits from my 29 years of teaching. One of them was to organize my home closets every summer, and so I started going through my memory boxes this year in the hopes of weeding out some things and gaining back some storage space.
Over those 29 years, I kept every card or letter from my students that included something they drew or their own handwriting. Going through the boxes of those notes has been bittersweet as my heart fills up with the beautiful memories. I think about the fact that I no longer have a life that is constantly enriched by a mosaic of personalities who could astonish me with their incredible insights, keep me grounded with their honest feedback, and sometimes make my eyes well up with their generous outpouring of love.
Many teachers who are about to return to work for a new school year may wish they were in my current shoes: semi-retired, often working from home, finally the one who decides on my own schedule. I remember beginning every school year with a mixture of hope and mourning, excited to work with students again but sad to lose the sense of balance and control I temporarily regained during my weeks away. And every year it seems there are more challenges and more concerns.
But you are needed and you are appreciated, teachers. It’s hard to hold on to that when you are in the midst of it all, and when you look at all of the sacrifices that you make. There isn’t a lot of physical evidence to collect that proves your worth. I suppose it’s true that most of us didn’t choose teaching for the money or validation. It’s still nice to have, though.
That’s why I went through some of my Inspirational Videos for Teachers, and added a few to my Back to School Wakelet. I tried to look for the ones that are good reminders of what it really means to be a teacher. Some are funny and some are serious. Some are classics and some are newer. But re-watching them, along with re-discovering notes from students, has reminded me about why I did what I did for 29 years. I can’t give you any extra money, but maybe some of these videos will give you the validation that too often seems to be lacking.
If someone asked me, I’d go back in time and do those 29 years again. (Just not now because I’m menopausal and grumpy and have a Great Dane who would chew the house down if I left her for that length of time each day. And I’m really fond of getting up at 8 am instead of 5 am. And going to the doctor when I need to instead of putting it off until summer break. And having some semblance of control over my thermostat.) Teachers can be treated unjustly and have to endure untenable conditions. I certainly went through my share of that during my career. The system needs to change.
But there are a lot of us out there who are grateful for teachers. It’s not tangible and it doesn’t make up for abuse and poor working conditions. But it can help to look through those memory boxes, watch those videos, and remember you are making a difference.