Saturday, April 30, 2016

Peaks, Valleys, and Insecurities: Otherwise Known as "Life"

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

"Yesterday during 6th period, the kids were so awful I wanted to tear my hair out and go apply for a job as a coffee barista across the street.

Then, during 7th period, they worked hard and I had a few tremendously sweet moments with a few students.

So, I decided to go back today."

One of the best comments I got was from friend who is a teacher.

She wrote, "Otherwise known as a career in teaching."

This comment really gave me pause. She is so right.

Teaching is beautiful and hard, uplifting and disappointing, heart-filling and heart-breaking. I'm trying to be at peace with the peaks and valleys. Sometimes, I have to make myself stop and honor the wonderful- even in the smallest of moments. Here are a few moments of grace from this week:

1. Our newest student, after 3 days, came up to me at the end of the day. She got very close to me, and asked, "What you name?" Normal. Everything is so overwhelming at first. So, we practiced my name several times.  She was very earnest and serious about it.   Then, she said, "Thank you, Miss." and I knew instinctively that she meant, "Thank you for the day. Thank you for teaching me." Heart in throat.

Yesterday, she came up to me again at the end of the day. This time, she held a post-it note in her hand. She said sweetly, "Write you name." I wrote my name on her post-it and we practiced it again.

Then she carefully and thoughtfully folded the post-it into a small square and tucked it into her pocket.

I am honored beyond measure that one of the first things she is committed to knowing how to say in English is my name. I mean, really.

2. Another love brought me a glass of Sprite from their after-school program party. I don't even teach in the after-school program. She set it on my desk, and said, "Pepsi for you, Miss." I didn't correct the Pepsi part, because it was so cute. I thanked her and asked her why she brought it to me. Why did she leave the party and come all the way downstairs to give me a soda? "Because I love you, Miss."

3. A student who has been struggling mightily with anger, related to trauma, I think, has started to turn the corner. I have tried to be loving with her, while not allowing her to leave a wake of destruction in her path. Tough boundaries with love. And, it is paying off. I think she's starting to brighten a little, look a little happier. We were leaving for the zoo on Wednesday morning, and everyone was excited. She said to me, "Miss, today is beautiful." And, she spread her arms wide and high as she said it, as if grasping that maybe her new life would be okay after all.

Such small moments, but these are the things that as a teacher I need to pay attention to. And, I write it down, so I will never, ever forget it.

These are the peaks, but what about the valleys? What about those days that just feel like a miserable slog? I want to be real on this page, so here's the thing about the valleys for me. 

They can, at times, send me into a spiral of deep insecurity and unworthiness about my abilities as a teacher.

Sometimes things go so badly with a lesson- it's so uninspired or it falls flat or no one is paying attention to it. Or those times when an interaction goes so wrong with a kid- I get angry or find myself in a power struggle with a 13 year old. I wonder who ever saw fit to give me a teaching license. I wonder if I should even be in front of these sweet kids.

So, on the really bad days, I question my abilities deeply. I feel like a fraud. I even look at other teachers and feel terribly inadequate in comparison. Obviously, they are meant to be in the classroom. They have what it takes in spades.

And, I think, who am I to be doing what I'm doing? Who am I to be teaching these precious children? The thought, "I am just not up to this task" gnaws at me. It's simply just too hard.

I mean, I'm just some random, white, 46 year-old girl from Iowa. How can I possibly help a kid who has fled a war, lived in a refugee camp, and experienced a real insecurity that I will never really know?

And, yet..... And, yet, in moments of grace I think, "Why not me? Maybe I am exactly the person to help them right now."

I care about them. I'm passionate about lifting them up. Something led me here. Something put this work in front of me. I feel a fierce protectiveness for my students and I want everyone to know how amazing and strong they are.

So, maybe I am the one.

Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I love this, and it helps me. So, how do I get out of these valleys and insecurities?

1. I write down stories from the days I feel brilliant and I go back and read and re-read them until I remember.

2. I read inspiring thoughts like the one above.

3. I reach out to others- especially those who know me and love me best. And, I share my struggles, and I ask them if they ever feel this way.

I don't know about you but I feel immense relief when I see that others are struggling too, and I don't feel so alone. Am I the only one who doesn't have it all together? NO, but I might be one of the few willing to admit it publicly in writing. :)

And, here's the thing- we need others to remind us that even if today was a bad day, a valley of the worst kind, tomorrow might be a great day, a glorious peak. And, we need them to hit us over the head with all the wonderful about us and shout down those insecurities.

One day, I was going on and on about the few mistakes I had made during a presentation for a group of teachers. My colleague, who is a very gentle soul, actually raised her voice and held her hand in front of me, and said, "Stop it!!!!" And, she helped me come out of this ridiculous spiral.

Some days, I admit, I still look at that cozy, calm, quiet coffee shop across the street and fantasize about working there. 

But, then I really think it through, and I don't think I'd be so good with all the levers, the steaming. And, I know I couldn't stop myself from rolling my eyes at the customers who ordered half-decaf, extra hot, skinny lattes, with an extra shot of ridiculousness.

I think in the end what I really want to do is just sit in that coffee shop all day, drinking delicious, strong, black coffee, and read a novel. But, as good as that sounds, it would not be very fulfilling after a while.

So, for the time being, I'll just stay exactly where I am.

I'll stay right with these beautiful souls.

Exactly where I am-with all its peak, valleys, and insecurities.

Otherwise known as a career in teaching.

And, really, otherwise known as life.

No comments:

Post a Comment