It was the night before I went back to work for my third school year. As I lamented the end of summer, I took to Instagram and was... not so subtle about my displeasure at once again being busy every day.
To be fair, I’ve got a lot on my plate: Coaching boys’ and girls’ tennis, running the yearbook and the student newspaper, and now supporting my colleagues as a Professional Learning Community leader. The summer is a time for me to have some time for myself. That’s a luxury I don’t experience much from August to May, and at times the start of a new school year can feel like beginning yet another climb to the top of a mountain when it feels like I just finished the last climb.
I sometimes feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, but a comment on my Instagram post from a former student changed my perspective. It read, “Summer is awesome but so is touching the lives of students that you’ll have this school year!”
She was right, and I needed that kick in the leg. Being an educator is a huge undertaking that comes with its own inextricable issues and stressors, but it’s important to never forget the value that each school day brings and how impactful teachers can be to a student’s life. That far outweighs the relaxation of summer and, yes, even the stress of the school year.
Teachers have a unique opportunity. Aside from parents, we see these students as much, if not more than, anyone in their lives. That's a tremendous responsibility for us, but it's one we should both welcome and pursue.
When days seem hard to handle, I think back to why I got into this profession to begin with: to help people.
The most impactful teachers and coaches I had in my time as a student were the ones whose compassion, empathy, and genuine desire to teach were obvious. They stayed late after school to work with students. They coached a sport. They skipped their lunch to help a student on an assignment. They devoted their personal time to ensure the success of their students.
Those qualities are vital for teachers to reach today’s students. Many come to school already upset or hurt because of something that happened at home. We might be the only source of stability in their lives, and that’s not something we should take lightly.
My boss noted last year that if a student feels they have at least one teacher they can count on and confide in, their chances of staying in school and succeeding increase greatly. You never know when you might be that teacher for a student.
Of course, there are still days when I’m ready to pull my hair out because of how frustrated or stressed I am, and there are plenty of nights when I don’t get home until 8 p.m. or later. (With a wife at home, that’s less than ideal.)
But when you encounter one of those days, remember why you got into this profession. Those truly unpleasant days are few and far between, and that little extra devotion and stress for one night can make a positive lifelong difference for someone in your class.