One of the interns at my high school who graduated from college last year and is just finishing her first full school year is exhausted. I told her that it was totally normal. In fact even though I’m finishing my third year of teaching and figured I’d be seasoned by now I feel exhausted too.
It’s so hard to tell if this profession is right for me. All teachers look forward to summer and talk about being exhausted by the work. There is no disagreement among good teachers that the work is utterly exhausting even if you do teach at a fancy private school with great students. The hard part for me is to decide if that feeling exhausted and ready to leave at the end of the day implies that I’m in the wrong career. I want to have energy for life, to feel ready to suffer on the bicycle and happy and cheery for my friends and loved ones. And teaching doesn’t always do that. It does always give me lots of stories.
Story break! I have a wireless mouse that controls my computer and is handy to use with my LCD projector. One of my students was trying to pull up Pandora with the normal mouse as I tried to open something else. Honestly, even as a 25 year old professional, I still thought it was good fun to mess with my student. He was annoyed, thought I was another kid messing with him and without even looking flips me off. I drop my mouth in utter shock that this well–behaved mature, A student is flipping me off. He looks over at me, realizes what he has done and his jaw drops too. He starts apologizing profusely, honestly really embarrassed. Nobody else has seen what happened they just see him and I staring at each other in shock. I can’t stop laughing. We decide he was just saying “4″ in binary. (We learned how to count in binary on our hands the other day.)
Thursday while reviewing one student was presenting parabolas. He drew the bottom of a parabola and two eyes and said “Smiley faces are one real world application of parabolas.” Hilarious. I daily have these kids moments that are just priceless.
All of my seniors in Calculus graduate a week early. We said our goodbyes and I really appreciated the students who told me that they learned a lot and that I did a good job. To base my self esteem on the words of high schoolers is probably a dangerous thing, but i definitely do it. They see more of me than almost anyone else. Sometimes I wonder what it changes about my personality to spend so much time with adolescents. Am i less mature? More hopeful? Less jaded? They see a lot of possibility in the world and have unlimited dreams for themselves. It’s actually hard to hear about their dreams and not jump at my own. One of my students is working with a college professor in hawaii this summer on research. Another with a different professor on special relativity. I’m jealous. It doesn’t seem fair. One particularly good student dreams of being an astronaut.
Yet at the end of every day I know I’ve accomplished something. I’ve inspired someone. I’ve helped someone learn something on the path to their goals. I’m needed. That probably isn’t quite enough to keep me going forever but at least for awhile.