When I started teaching on my own, a year and a half ago, I counted every week as a fraction of the school year. I was not sure I could make it, so I had to think in tenths, and fifths, and halves. For the first couple months, each week was a victory.
In my second year, I still count the weeks, but mainly for planning purposes. Only the big fractions stand out. Today is the end of week 20, the school year is half way done. My biggest obstacle is exhaustion. I like teaching but it makes me tired. This week I realized that’s the one thing left that makes me question how long I can last.
It’s not like sitting in a cube and writing economic analysis all day, (which I did for almost three years). It’s standing on my feet, raising my voice, putting on a show, quickly responding to a million little cues all day long. The first week of school my body ached, my throat hurt, I went home each day and took a nap. Even now, by Friday afternoon, I’m drained.
However, the difference between a year ago and today is my heart. A year ago was about survival. Today is about love. I love my kids. I know they’re not mine. But I still love them. A year ago I was just getting to know them. I am so grateful for two years together. Even the most irritating behaviors often end in smiles now. I know which buttons to push, which tricks to use to make their anger dissolve into laughter.
This morning I woke up and realized I am three fourths done being their teacher. Fifth grade teachers think in fractions. The separation is already beginning. Their fifth grade, hormonal selves are becoming more social, less attached to me. Today we all ate lunch in the classroom to celebrate our academic success and instead of huddling around me like they did a year ago, they sat in little groups and ate. Occasionally one would stop by and chat, then move on.
I didn’t mind, though. I’m excited for what comes next, for them and me. I’m excited to see whether the next batch feels the same or different. Today I wrote in their morning message that we are half way done with fifth grade. I told them I will cry when I have to say goodbye, because I care. I made a few cry prematurely with that statement. Teaching is definitely about heart. Now if only I could figure out how to keep it from making me so darn tired.