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What I do

I have been feeling it again.  That sensation of exhaustion that washes over you, day in and day out.  Late this afternoon, after a final word with the vice-principal before leaving for the day, I placed my hand over the center of my abdomen and felt a sharp, persistent pain.  Something cutting. Felt like I was being pulled from the inside out.

I left for home, and once supper was on and the house cleanliness status went from ‘disaster zone’ to just ‘normal messy’, I left for a walk.  But again, exhaustion seemed to overcome me: this time, accompanied by shoulders aching from the day’s (and night’s) stress and tension.

I pushed past the pain and tried to extend my steps to make up for the pull I felt. Focus.  Step, step. It’s what I do. I won’t give in.

And truth be told, it’s what we all do: push past the feelings and carry on in spite of them, wondering how we will have the strength to take another step.  But taking that next step anyway.

And as I walked, I let my mind wander to the day’s events.  Wondering what had I even accomplished.  What did I ever do today to make a difference?

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Earlier, I am sitting at my chair filing papers while children play happily around me.  A little voice pipes up: “Mrs. Gard…I have something to tell you.”

I wait for the words, not quite knowing what to expect.

“I love you,” he says.

I am immediately so touched.  He loves me?  But why?

What it is I have ever done to deserve such precious words?

And don’t we sometimes wonder about such things: wonder whether what do we as teachers is enough to merit such beneficial love?

And in thinking about children and what they desire, I am reminded again and again: it isn’t what we do- it’s who we are.

That’s the difference.

And although we might be the very best at planning and orchestrating amazing lessons.  The very best at making our classrooms a place for discovery and exploration.  The epitome of professionalism.   Or not quite this ideal.

It’s really not our ‘stuff’ that makes the difference.

It’s who we are to them that matters.

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So what did I do today?

I smiled at the door- even when inside I was still reeling from last night’s news.

I crouched down low so that they could see my face.

I talked gently and repeated myself when necessary.

I greeted that child who was lonely, helped another who just needed my love.

I zipped zippers and put on gloves.

Talked and chatted.

But still I wonder.  What did I do today?

So what did I do today?

Well, I hid tears as quickly as they fell so that little eyes wouldn’t see and wonder.

I made assessments feel like games and stories come alive.

Walked a little one to the bathroom in the middle of a lesson so that she wouldn’t feel scared to go alone in the hall.

I located lunches that were lost, stowed toys that were distracting and sorted dozens of wiki sticks back into their spots.

And at the end of it all I still asked myself:

What did I do today?

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Teachers, we need to give ourselves permission to be human.  To make mistakes.  To feel pain.  To be a real live person with ISSUES and STRUGGLES and HEARTACHES and SORROW.  We don’t completely check our lives at the door when we come to school.  Yes, we must be professional, but we also have to be real.

So here’s what I also did today at school.

I got through a day that was difficult and I survived.

And in spite of my failings and in spite of all the circumstances of life that pull me from every direction, my students still love me.

They love me.  They care for me.  And I for them.

And because of this, I could do all this today.  I can do what I do,…both today, tomorrow and every day after that.

Because of them, I can do what I do.

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10 thoughts on “What I do

  1. I just want to thank you. For your words, for your encouragement, for your belief that there is a greater reason that we do what we do besides test scores and evaluations. I keep thinking that I AM a good teacher despite the fact that I don’t always plan the best lessons and make mistakes when instructing. I am a GOOD teacher because I absolutely, 100% LOVE these kids and BELIEVE in these kids and it shows….and that makes all the other parts better, too. And that’s OK not to be perfect at all of it. I’m perfect at the part that really matters. Thank you for helping me see that today.

  2. I just want to thank you. For your words, for your encouragement, for your belief that there is a greater reason that we do what we do besides test scores and evaluations. I keep thinking that I AM a good teacher despite the fact that I don’t always plan the best lessons and make mistakes when instructing. I am a GOOD teacher because I absolutely, 100% LOVE these kids and BELIEVE in these kids and it shows….and that makes all the other parts better, too. And that’s OK not to be perfect at all of it. I’m perfect at the part that really matters. Thank you for helping me see that today.

    • You are exactly the right person to teach the children/students you’ve been given to teach. Right now! Never forget the purpose and higher calling that is your life’s path. You are meant for such a time as this, such a place as where you find yourself every day between 8-4. Keep on keeping on, my friend! You are making that difference in some child’s life. 🙂

  3. I had a few extraordinary teachers who touched my life. I was a kid in a troubled home, and these special teachers were respite for me. They stuck by and helped me when I struggled with a subject, and brought such passion to the classroom, that it made me excited to learn. I have had the opportunity to email or FB message some of them and thank them for their handprint on my life. I hope in 20 years, you ladies both get an inbox message or phone call thanking you for your hard work.

    • Oh, this was so touching!! I am so glad you have found the time to say thanks to those teachers. What a gift it would be for them to KNOW the impact they’ve had on your life. Carry on, my friend!! You are making something beautiful of your life!

  4. Ah, Lori-you love purposefully-and you are making a difference in these little people’s lives. But, not just them-thank-you for your love to us , your parents! We love you!

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