In an effort to better organize my digital devices, I've been sorting through various note-taking apps on my phone, iPad, and computer to see what's redundant and what best suits my needs. (The answer to this is probably none of them since I am messy, chaotic person and no app can fix this personality flaw.) But I stumbled across a journal entry in Evernote from three years ago. The note was a general reflection on multiple aspects of life, but the top of the list was devoted to my career:
It was the shortest part of the entry, and the most brutal. Emotionally detached, resigned to the idea that teaching wasn't for me anymore. That particular thought was written while I was in the midst of a grad school program that I loved, and teaching two grades of students I still look back on fondly. What the hell was wrong with me? Or, more importantly, what changed?
To say that my happiness in my career has changed drastically since then is an understatement. I can't fathom even on my worst day of teaching right now that I would go home and think that there was a better fit. I am a writing teacher. That's what I'm made for; it's what I do best.
I won't say it was luck that changed things around for me regarding my career. I made my own happiness with teaching by investing in myself. I quit making my life miserable by trying to fit myself into a mold of what I thought an English teacher should do, and instead focused every ounce of my energy into creating an environment that supports adolescents as emerging writers and people. I embraced my abilities as a teacher and writer and starting using them in an authentic way each and every day in my classroom. It's not like I never did those things before that crisis of faith in teaching; it's that I didn't fully realize they were what made me a teacher. I could tell kids how to write and dictate creative assignments to them, but I wasn't using my skills as a writer to work with them, to show them how growth and struggle happens. I wasn't being fair or honest with them about how freaking tough writing is for even the most seasoned writer.
I'm glad I was able to turn it around and rediscover my love for teaching. This note is a distant memory, and one I don't intend to revisit. I know many teachers have similar feelings, but never rekindle their love for their profession, choosing instead to stay in a career that makes them (and their students) miserable. I don't want that to be me. I don't want to come close to the head space I was in three years ago ever again.
Today I wrote three rounds of terrible poetry projected so all of my 8th graders to see my writing process in real time. I sighed at my cliches and groaned with disgust at writer's block that left me holding my pencil still for at least four solid minutes of silence. I'm not just the leader of my classroom community, I'm an active member of it. Teaching writing is challenging and natural and necessary to my existence. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.