We started the first day back after the Christmas break in the chapel. Our headmaster spoke about passion and how this is the time of year when both teachers and kids often succumb to the winter blahs and lose some of the excitement about teaching and learning that preceded the break. He read an excerpt from a book about teachers. An inner-city schoolteacher wrote about the woman who inspired her to go into teaching – her first grade teacher in Puerto Rico. The woman remembered how Mrs. Betancourt had cared about her students, greeting them outside the classroom each morning and ushering them into the room with enthusiasm.
He emphasized the importance of maintaining our passion for teaching – for students – at this time of year. It made me think about a conversation I had with a friend, in which I asked her who had been her favorite teacher. She named a teacher she had in middle school. When I asked her what made this teacher so memorable, my friend replied, “She cared about us.” I know that I have created a legacy that will last after my time on this earth. Children will remember me with fondness and may describe me as their favorite teacher someday. I have worked very hard in my career, giving countless hours of my own personal time to perfecting my craft, acquiring classroom materials, and preparing the learning environment for my students. I’m not sure I could come up with the number of hours I have volunteered in my own classroom after my official work hours were over.
While it is a privilege to be a part of these children’s lives, I have sacrificed my own personal life in the process. I think part of this is my need for downtime when I’m not working – hours of small children calling your name repeatedly tend to make you crave peace and quiet when you’re not with them! My workaholic tendencies are also fueled by my perfectionism and desire to perform my job to the best of my ability. I am slowly letting go of all of those things and trying to focus on living a meaningful life for me. I have felt lately that whatever leagacy I have, it isn’t enough if I don’t live a passionate life outside my classroom.
Over the last few years, I have made an effort to decrease the number of hours I “donate” to my classroom. I have also stopped spending so much money on materials from Lakeshore and books. Most of the books I have acquired recently have been free, purchased with bonus points from Scholastic, and I think I may have finally kicked the Lakeshore habit – the last time I went in (months ago!) I wasn’t seduced at all by the new products!
I want to make time in my day to develop my passions and my relationships. It shouldn’t be this much of a challenge, but it is.