I Hate My Job

I hate my job. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE teaching. But I hate the nuances of the teaching profession. There has been an extremely ugly shift in what is expected of a teacher, and it is in that shift that I find not only discomfort but also abhorrence. I hate that a bunch of bureaucrats who have not even stepped foot in a classroom in the past decade (or two, perhaps three) can sit upon their cushy leather chairs and dictate to me how I ought to run my classroom. My classroom… the old one with out of date technology… the one filled with students whose problems are certainly more life altering than whether or not they can solve an equation using Pythagorean’s theorem like the kids can in China. I hate that there is more importance placed on whether or not my students can pass more so than whether or not they are ACTUALLY learning. Isn’t education just that? To educate is to guide students in their learning… not assess how well they can achieve the 76 standards I am required to pound into their brains until they master each and every single one of them. It’s exhausting.

Because you know what? I love my students. I love that I get to teach them each day. I love walking in to my room, a room full of sleepy faces, smiling at them and saying, “Good morning!” For many of them, I’m the first adult they see in the morning. I’m the one who asks, “Did you put in your contacts?”, “Did you eat breakfast?”, “Where is your coat?”, “Are you feeling better today?” I feel their foreheads for fever and wipe away their tears. I am, for some, the only adult who loves them enough to put restrictions on their behavior. “No, you cannot do that… because I love you enough to let you know that you shouldn’t.”

The other day, a voice came on the intercom during one of my classes. “Teachers, we need you to lockdown at this time.” For some reason unbeknownst to me, our school was in lockdown. Immediately, I went into drill sergeant mode.

“Kids, I need you to get out of your desks, sit here.. and be quiet!” I thought I would have to knock out one kid who refused to stop talking. I ordered them to get into the right place and stood there like a mother hen. I was prepared to go all Chuck Norris on anyone who tried to come into MY classroom and hurt MY babies. My mind reeled back and forth, preparing myself for what I needed to do.

I questioned whether it was a drill for a moment, but had to assume it wasn’t. In my rational, analytical mind, the fact that some of our students were in the middle of state-mandated testing only further solidified that this could not, in fact, a drill. Nothing interferes with state-mandated testing!

So there I hovered around my 22 teenagers, most of whom are bigger than I am, preparing to protect them from an unseen Boogie Man.

Ten minutes later as the bell rang for them to leave me, the same voice announced, “Students may go to their next hour.”

WHAT?!?! You mean, I don’t have to pull out my ninja moves on someone? (The adrenaline crash I had later that evening kicked my butt too.)

Once I got over that, realization dawned on me.

I really was ready to do battle to protect my ‘babies’. At that moment in time, my mama-fierce-love for them took over all other sensibilities, and I was ready to keep them safe. Because you know what? I LOVE my students. I LOVE teaching.

But I do hate my job.

 

 

Because the standards of my job do not take into account the fact that some of my students have one parent who is working their butt off to provide for their kids, some whose parent is so strung out that he doesn’t know if said parent will be alive tomorrow, that they do homework by streetlight because there’s no electricity, that lunch on Friday afternoon is the last real meal they get until Monday morning, that going ‘home’ could mean going anywhere in the world because there isn’t a house to be lived in, that a slap to the face is the only physical touch she gets from mama……. tell me again… why is scoring proficient on an EOI so important?

Oh, that’s right. That guy with the cushy leather chair says it is, so it must be so.

My mission, not my job, is important. Because my mission is to teach my kids lessons. Lessons, not only about literature and writing, but also about life. Maybe they won’t need my literature lessons in 20 years, but they need it for next year and the next. They need these lessons at least for the next three until the achieve a high school diploma… a diploma that symbolizes that they, despite their sometimes really ugly circumstances, succeeded. They learned. They conquered. And I LOVE that I get to help them along the way to that. I LOVE that in doing so, I get the chance to get to know these wonderful kids who will someday run our country, who will send their children off to school with stories about their teachers, who will hopefully remember that I taught them more than just Romeo and Juliet. And for that reason, despite hating my job, I LOVE that I get to teach.

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this little light of mine

The moon is full in the sky, and the stars shine once again down on the earth. The wind stirs the leaves slightly in its breeze, rocking them to sleep. In a sweet little boy’s bedroom, his mama tucks in him, kisses his forehead, and asks, “What song do you want me to sing tonight, Bub?”

“‘This Little Light of Mine’,” he responds with a yawn.

“Alright,” she says. She knew this was the answer before she even asked.

The sweet little boy closes his big blue eyes, resting himself for a big day at school tomorrow, and his mama sings. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…. hide it under a bush, oh no!… won’t let anyone blow it out!… I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine.”

So simple, those words.

 

As a 4-year-old myself, I remember singing those words, using my tiny fingers to show my light, waving it proudly in front of me, so resolute in my declaration. Now, just a few years later, my son asks for that song more often than any other. And I often sing it, words rolling over my lips while my thoughts drift to all the many things I need to be doing instead, hand on the door knob, ready to move on to the next necessary task.

Tonight, though, was different.

Tonight, I thought about those words, thinking about my light. Thinking about how bright it really is, or how dull it becomes. Mostly thinking about what I poor job I’ve done of allowing it to be hidden under a bush or blown out at times. “Hide it under a bush….” Oh no. I have. I am guilty. I have hidden it. Why? Sometimes I’m afraid of the shine. Sometimes I’m afraid that it might scare away those who would rather remain in places where the light isn’t so bright. Sometimes, I just forget that I am called to be the light because the World blocks my view. Sometimes, if I’m honest, being a dim-lighted Christian is just easier. It’s just so much more simple. It requires less energy.

“Won’t let Satan blow it out!” Oh man. Guilty there too. Though he doesn’t stomp in, red eyes glowing and pitchfork in hand like I thought he would when my 4-year-old self sang it. Oh, no. Now I’m onto him. He comes in many forms. An ugly remark from a coworker. An inconvenience. A slight annoyance. A deadline I can’t meet. An expectation too unrealistic. A rude behavior from a person in the checkout line. A disappointment. A stressful situation. He’s there. Lurking in the shadow. Lips shaped in an O, breathing hot air my way, trying ever so slightly to distinguish my light. Sometimes, I protect it, keeping him away from it. Sometimes, his hot breath suffocates me so that the light is too much, and I just let him blow it out. Other times, however, I may as well have snuffed it myself without his help at all.

Sigh. It’s hard being a light sometimes. I’ll admit, I am not the light by which anyone should use to guide themselves through life. However, that light you do see even in its dimmest time is not even my light at all. It’s the light reflected off of me from The Light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” (John 8:12)

Whew. That’s a relief. This little light of mine is not mine at all, but His. I am only a mirror of His light, not the light. This little light of mine is so because I reflect what is true and pure, when I’m not allowing it to be extinguished, that is.

So despite my dimmest times or my failures to protect it, at least I get to reflect His light, the greatest light in this sometimes very dark world. And hopefully that reflection shines the way for someone else’s darkness. For even a little light is welcome there.