Teaching brings peace in personal crisis. This is an observation I’ve been making since September, and it’s one that I’ll add to my collection of general truths about this profession that transcend buzzwords, initiatives, and mandates of all kinds.
In recent months, my life has been uprooted and changed before my eyes in many ways. As we all come to understand at one time or another, the challenges that life provides us can carry with them a bludgeoning impact. (An impact, some might say, that causes bloggers to update far less frequently than normal…) When processing loss, even getting out of bed in the morning can take tremendous effort. But once you get out of bed, you can go to work. That’s what I’ve been doing–going to work. And in so many ways, the familiar routine and positivity created and received by those who teach has sustained me. Uplifted me.
I walk into work, usually joking all the way with my carpooling colleague Ms. D, and I see a student population that operates much like a family. I watch kids roughhouse, laugh, support one another, yell and grin and hug. The eternal energy and effervescence of youth is unstoppable as the day begins and the halls fill with a rowdy but happy noise, and I can’t help but feed off of the energy that spills off of them. Students that I teach currently and those that I’ve taught in years past smile and say “Hi, Ms. H!!” like saying hi is a new and incredible thing. And I get to share books with them. I get to write poetry with them. I get to challenge their thinking and watch glazed processing turn to intent puzzling turn to flickering realization. I get to teach them to speak and reason and create.
In dark times when I feel nearly out of control of my own life, my role as a teacher reminds me that it is my job to reassure students who are nervous, to hoist up the students who try to give up, and to bring words out of students who might otherwise conceal themselves in a shroud of apathy. Good teachers get so much trust and faith from their students. And it just reminds me that if I am worthy of a young person’s trust, I can probably trust myself too. This profession gives us the honor of being the looked-to, steadying force for young adults that need us. And when life’s calamities make us feel a little broken for a while, we can remember that we are the healers, and–especially with the help of one another–we can Teach ourselves how to cope, strengthen, and self-renew.
Words are medicine, art is life.