As a teacher, there were more times than I care to admit that I felt I wasn’t enough.
There were times I felt I wasn’t making a difference.
There were times I questioned why I was even teaching.
There were times I just felt less than.
You know—not as good as.
Like I should be doing more.
Like I should be exactly like other teachers I admired.
And it seemed everywhere I looked, I was reminded of everything I should be, but wasn’t.
(Thank you Twitter. Much obliged.)
But now, thanks to a little thing called hindsight, I’m feeling better.
I get it.
As an ELA teacher, I usually wrote with my students. If I expected them to write in a certain genre, I felt the need to have that experience for myself.
Occasionally, I would share my writing with my students, as I felt it important to remind myself of how it felt to share my thoughts and feelings with an audience.
I needed to feel the butterflies in my stomach.
I needed to hear the blood pounding in my ears.
I needed to feel alone when in a room of people.
So I shared the descriptive ode I had written and listened to my students laugh.
I shared my slice of life story and listened to sniffles.
And at the end of the school year, I shared this post and listened to an unimaginable silence, followed by the screeching of stools being pushed back from tables as students engulfed me with kind words and hugs.
So I get it. I understand the power of writing.
Writing creates connections.
Sharing my writing encouraged others to share.
Sharing my writing made others feel less alone.
And sharing my writing encouraged others to write…
and provided the opportunity for others to be heard.
This was written by a quiet, polite student whose voice I rarely heard:
And this, written by a student who struggled to write anything (it goes on for many pages):
I remember reading each of these, and feeling an urgency to contact the school counselor, as I heard their cries for help.
I remember thinking about how I would respond, as I knew they needed to know they had been heard.
I remember thinking about what I could possibly say that would make a difference.
And a big part of me remembers wondering, what have I done?
So while there were many things I was not as a teacher, there were many things I was:
I was passionate about the power of writing.
…about students feeling the struggle and frustration that accompanies the writing process, as well as the satisfaction that comes once a piece is completed.
…about students solidifying their learning by writing.
…and most importantly, about helping students find their voice.
And if I would have understood this years ago, I probably would not have been so hard on myself as a teacher.
All I needed to be was myself.
We have all been given a gift to use in order to do some good in this world.
So to my teacher friends I say…stay true to who you are. You don’t need to be everything to everyone. Students need all kinds of teachers. Because in each and every classroom there are all kinds of students.
In life, if we continue to get caught up in all that we aren’t, we can’t make room in our lives to honor the gifts we have been given; we are just giving the world a watered down version of our best selves.
And most importantly, when we stay true to ourselves, we are opening up opportunities for others to shine.
Galatians 6:4-5 The Message (MSG)
4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.