I think she captured what so many of us struggle with on a regular basis. One of my favorite quotes in the world is from Penny Kittle. It hangs on the wall in my classroom, just to the right of my whiteboard, to remind me.
I believe you've got to do what's right, every single day of your life, even if the rest of the crowd isn't. Teaching is about honor and goodness and mercy. It really is. And no one will be watching you most of the time. You either live up to the calling of this profession or you don't, and most likely no one will ever know but you.
- from The Greatest Catch, a life in teaching by Penny Kittle
Here's the thing I think Jess rubbed up against, and we all do from time to time. She holds herself to the highest standards. If we didn't care, if teaching was just "a job", it wouldn't matter. You wouldn't disappear to that dark place. As Penny says, most of the time we are the only ones who know how it is really going in our classroom. To everyone else, it looks fine, better than fine, really. But we know. And that is SO HARD. There is no way to be perfect 100% of the time. There is no way to always reach every child, every day. I wish there were.
There are times I feel like a complete failure when parents tell me there children still don't "love" to read, but like me, so they do. How have I not reached them? How have I not shown them the magic that reading (and writing) can bring? It is easy to see our failures. That's when, I believe you have to look for the bright spots. You know they are there. It's just easier to see the rest.
This week was crap in many ways. Some friends let me down. I had moments where I felt like a bad mom. I had a glimpse of every way I hadn't reached a child. And then Thursday hit. I tried to write. I tried to make my NaNoWriMo piece anything but the steaming pile I felt it was. I looked it over at the end of the day and felt misery. Who was I to think I was a writer? What did I really have to say? I reached out to some friends, crickets. Ugh.
So Friday, I went to school. I spoke to my homeroom that morning. They asked how my writing was going. My eyes teared up, which frustrated me. Any emotion comes on and the waterworks are quick to respond. I told them that I felt it was bad, really bad. They asked me some questions about it, helped me see a thread that was dangling, just waiting. Too soon, we had to switch so they could go to math. A boy came over as he was headed out of the room and patted my back. He said, "I thought mine was bad too. Thanks for telling me you had the same thought."
Our jobs are tough. It's easy to feel lonely in them at times. And when you are pouring your heart into something, that heart is open to be crushed. I think it's important to look around our buildings, see others in need of that reassurance. And when we are feeling like we've let ourselves down, I think it's important that we are honest with our kids. They tend to be ridiculously truthful, but also the best possible version of what we should be. Kids know when you truly care, when you are there for them, when you have tried your hardest. That's what's important, well, and getting back up and trying again. Thanks to Jess for that reminder. And thanks to my students for being there for me, once again. What a blessing it is to be in this profession.