As I was driving home after a 13-hour day last week, it occurred to me that I had just hosted my twenty-fourth Open House. And boy, was I tired.
Yep-I’ve been teaching middle school for that long. I started teaching long before I had children – I wasn’t even married yet! I started teaching before cell phones, in a ‘technology school’ which boasted a cutting edge sort of network for computers, and we all had to learn how to email. When I went home, I used DOS to create spreadsheets for grades, and couldn’t even imagine an instance when my students might contact me at home after work on it.
Times have changed, but my love for my job hasn’t. I think I have a dream job. Some people think I’m crazy for teaching 7th and 8th graders for this long. They call me things like ‘saint’, and tell me how grateful they are for me – and that they could never ‘do what I do’.
To be honest, they’re probably right. It takes a certain kind of craziness to do what I do every day. to give you an idea, imagine walking into your job and being bombarded from the moment you open the door. Yes, I’m a question answering queen. I hear explanations, excuses, and sometimes even legitimate questions about what happened inbetween the time they last saw me and the moment I stopped gulping down my thermos of coffee. And then the day begins. From 8:00 until whenever I can crawl out the door (usually between 4 and 5), I am surrounded by kids in the throes of puberty. They are self-conscious, funny, silly, frustrating, and thought-provoking. They make me a better human, and most certainly a better parent.
Teaching has taught me to create strong boundaries, to protect my personal life and value my job as a mother just as much as my job in the classroom. There’s been a few times I quit teaching – both because I started to feel that I was spending so much time with other people’s kids, I was going to end up with problems with my own.
Back in the early nineties, before I had kids, every year one of my 7th grade students got pregnant. It shocks me then the same as it shocks me now-especially when I think that that child could be having their own child by now. I so clearly remember the first time one of my girls, Tiffany, brought in her baby to show me. She had always been one of those students I worried about, and I guess my intuition was correct. I can still see her round, freckled face, tousled blonde hair and bright blue eyes as she pushed her stroller forward so I could take a look at her baby. Thinking back, I can’t remember what I said. I hope it didn’t show the shock and concern in my heart.
There are still days when I question what I’m doing. I wonder if I made the right choice all those years ago. Maybe I should have gone to law school, or taken a shot at writing. I’ll teach until it isn’t fun anymore, I remember telling myself. And then what? Teaching is my dream job for a multitude of reasons…but mainly because when I’m feeling sad, or thinking I cannot teach that novel one.more.time., something like this happens and makes me remember it’s all worth it. I’m sure lawyers don’t get notes like this.
This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel told mostly through letters and legal missives. Join From Left to Write on March 18 we discuss The Divorce Papers. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.