Oh teacher friends. It’s that time of year. Yep. You know what I’m talking about.
It’s the time of year when you drag your tired butt through the door of your home and think, Cooking is lame. Pizza for the third straight night will work. Right? But your teen rolls her eyes and says she really doesn’t want any more take-out.
Because it’s that bad.
It’s that special time in May when your alarm clock buzzes and you open one eye, remember you have three weeks left, and roll back over. You don’t need a shower today. Because even the brand new 23-year-old teachers look as rough as you do about now.
It’s the luxurious days of teacher appreciation week when parents shower you with gifts as if to say, “Please. Can’t you teach Sally this summer, too?” or “Pretty please, with sugar on top, don’t kill Johnny yet. You can do this!”
Except if you’re a secondary teacher those appreciation gifts never really show up because, well, the family budget can’t afford six or more of us…So we languish with teens while social media boast all the goodies received by our elementary counterparts.
But I digress…and I’m not bitter…My own freshman daughter hasn’t given a single thing to her teachers this week. So really, truly. I can’t complain. Except that I am. Kinda.
It’s that time of year when you threaten to lose your ever-loving-mind and every bit of self-control if ONE. MORE. kid comes begging for extra credit. Because yes, Fred, of course I want to put in extra work and extra time to create extra assignments to grade, when you didn’t do any work in the first place, and you sure as heck aren’tactuallydoing anything “extra” if I give you extra assignments.
It’s the time our papers pile high and our wrinkles dig deep. We rub our foreheads and wonder if we can do this again. We panic as we realize all the lessons we didn’t teach and all the skills our students didn’t learn.
It’s the part of the school year when herding cats looks like a better job option, because unless you’ve tried to engage a senior with only six days left of high school in a lesson, well, you haven’t really lived.
We look around our classrooms mentally ticking off the all the things that must be done before summer.
Some of us are gearing up for that second job during June and July because what so many don’t realize is that even though we may choose to be paid over 12 months, we aren’t ever actually paid for our time off.
While the rest of us are attending workshops or piling books discussing reading strategies and writing lessons and math manipulative in the corner because even during the summer, we’re planning and prepping for August.
It’s also that time of year when…
A high school student walks through the door and asks you to sign his yearbook. A junior buys lotion to replace the jar of yours he used every day. A student you’ve known for the last four years randomly comes to your desk for a hug because she’s graduating.
It’s the time in May when you’re counting down the hours left with more excitement than your students because you do have your summer “off,” and you know that’s a gift.
It’s these last days you begin to reflect on what you have accomplished and maybe it’s been far more than your fears want you to believe.
And it’s in May when you have to look hardest for the bright moments, yet, in reality, these last days can often have more smiles than normal if we purpose to look for them.
Because as these last few weeks of school surface, the hard work of building relationships pays off. I see it in the handwritten notes of gratitude randomly placed on my desk. Even in the loud interruptions of seniors walking into my classroom in the middle of class just to tell me they will miss me.
And that’s the way of grace.
Our moments of meaning often show up in the middle of our interruptions. It’s moments in the middle of my chaotic classroom when a student catches my eye to mouth the words “I’m sorry,” as he recognizes the hard work of crowd control I sometimes do. Moments when a student quietly slips her arm around my waist for a hug after I fussed at boys across the room for being on their phones.
Being a teacher is messy. It’s the get-your-hands-filthy-with-the-hard-work-of-loving-on-students kind of job. I’m not saying it’s the hardest job in the world. But I am saying it’s hard. We’re not called to the easy. No one really is.
Teaching leaves us stripped and bare. And by May? We are raw and bleeding.
Our emotions are on display and the exhaustion of pouring out all we have for ten months has left us with nothing. And friends? That’s normal.
We all feel it. We are not alone. We limp through this last mile. All of us.
And honestly? As much as I want to finish well, it’s not how I finish this marathon, but it’s how I’ve run it that counts.
So, my fellow teachers, keep running. Don’t quit. Offer yourself some grace for losing your temper today. Give yourself a pass for cancelling the test you didn’t have time to create.
You are human after all.
Look for the beautiful moments that WILL exist in these next few weeks. They’ll be there in the middle of the chaos.
And those moments? They may just give you the hope you need to do it all again in August.
Because our students?
They need you.
And summer is just around the corner.
So let’s grasp the hands of our colleagues and limp through the finish line together.