Email: [email protected]
Current Location: Missouri, USA
Subject Line: For the Tired People
So, I'm a brand-new 7th grade English teacher. I work in a school where something like 80% of the kids live below the poverty line. Many of them have families who are barely making it. Many of them wear the same clothes to school multiple days in a row. For many of them, school lunch is the only meal they will eat that day. Many of their parents struggle with drugs, alcoholism, or are incarcerated. And here I am, some 25-year-old white girl who saw Freedom Writers and wanted to make a difference. Want to know a secret? Some days, I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Yes, I do know some of what they're going through, I guess - I grew up in a similar situation, at least financially. My single mom worked three jobs while going back to school, raising me, and supporting my great-grandma who has Alzheimer's, but then she got cancer and we were on assistance for a while during my childhood. I had a grandmother who robbed my mom blind in the middle of all of this to pay off gambling debts. I've never met my dad and that's admittedly always left a bit of a hole in my heart. I know some fraction of what these kids go through, but every situation is different. I have no idea what it feels like, for instance, to come home to your mom's boyfriend holding a gun to her head. (Some of my kids do. That's tough to stomach.) And the work environment itself is tough. Because of the demographics of our city, the taxes are very low, and this translates to things like no air conditioning in the schools (temps reached 102 in my classroom this August). I'm not really complaining, because I am just in LOVE with these kids. They are truly remarkable. But it's still really, really hard.
The truth is, I sometimes feel completely snowed under and overwhelmed. Teaching is the hardest thing I've probably ever done, but I really honestly truly madly deeply feel like God has been taking care of my little introverted soul during these first three weeks of school. It's little things - every morning, hearing an encouraging song on the radio on my drive to school. When a kid comes to me for advice or just needs me to listen to them, and I'm blessed with just enough time to give them my ears for a few moments and it really seems to lighten a bit of their load. I've worked with kids for a while, in various capacities, before teaching full-time. But there is nothing quite like being in the middle of giving a naughty class a little talking-to about respect, and getting to the part where you tell them you're disappointed because their behavior is telling you they don't really care what you have to say (when they're talking while you're talking, tapping on desks, and otherwise not paying attention), and being completely cut off mid-sentence by the ten rowdiest, most ornery, most disruptive kids in the class dramatically and loudly objecting that you are, in actuality, their favorite teacher and that they can't WAIT to come to your class every day. That they feel like it's home. I almost cried in the middle of my serious talk! Here's God's honest truth: every day I internally question whether I truly have what it takes to be a teacher. And every day, there they are: the 77 silly, sweet, remarkable reasons I stay.
I say these things because I've been through just enough suffering in my short life to finally be touching the very outermost tip of a realization: that no matter what you're going through - and I mean no matter WHAT - there is always, always, always hope. That and Jesus help me get through my every day, and I hope it helps you, too.
Love from the Midwest,