My classroom feels heavy right now. A weight I can’t lift.
Most days I can get past it. Most days my students are the reason I teach. Most days I’m the first to jump up and defend my teenage learners.
Some days I feel unhinged and undone as I look into the faces of students with blank eyes and body language that tells me they think they have better things to do—like they couldn’t care less about what I have to say.
Those days I want to throw my computer across the room. Slam my palms against the desk. Scream, “Pay attention!”
Anything. Anything to get them to wake up.
For one blessed minute.
I want to take their faces in my hands. Look deep into the glazed-over eyes and plead. Beg. Implore. Please. Just hear me. Important things can go on in this room. Possibility exists, if only you listen.
But they don’t wake up. They don’t hear. And they just don’t care.
It’s a dangerous gift this handing of my heart pieces to teenage minds. Yes, I put my heart in their hands. Every day. At some point—every day—it gets broken.
Frustration and hurt sit close together when apathy heaps heavy on our teaching shoulders.
Because I’ve done everything to engage the student—the video teaser, the deep questions, the personal applications, the relationship building, the excitement pouring from my soul. All of this and maybe even a purple pony too.
All of this and my audience only sighs with daydreaming faces.
It’s tangible pain to watch students at the edge of world with me wondering if they’ll know what to do with that big-wide future. To know their next steps can really be make or breaks. To watch potential throw itself away.
And it hurts even deeper to know apathy sometimes isn’t apathy at all. It can be the veil worn to cover scars and wounds and hunger and questions and abuse I will never understand.
But. I remind myself.
I don’t have to teach these students. I get to teach them.
I get to pry open the seal of apathy and reach in deep. I get to give everything I have to a classroom of students. I get to watch the days when knowledge lights a dark face.
The hard teaching days? Those are the days I want to give up. Stop trying. Lock the classroom doors forever.
But Hope stands in the doorway. It lifts my head and shows me the places apathy has fallen away or even just cracked a bit.
It gives me a reason to stay.
The thing about hope for teachers? It’s hard to see. To catch a glimpse, we need to know we make a difference.
Yet seeing the difference we make is like attempting to view the Eiffel Tower with a magnifying glass. We stand so close to the tower of art, our vision so focused on the here and now, we cannot see the breathtaking beauty of the whole masterpiece.
To see the magnificence of the Eiffel Tower, we need to step back. It’s in the stepping back we begin to see hope. We won’t find it examining every bad day with our magnifying glasses held tight to our eyes. We will miss hope when we add up the ways this job is hard.
Stepping back lifts the weighted stone that student apathy sets deep in my soul.
Hope wants me to pull away and number the amazing moments of this beautiful career. Hope asks me to remember the student that emailed last summer after passing his AP exam. His message? “We did it.”
(I still swallow hard. Because we.)
Hope calls me to see the big-picture masterpiece of my students’ lives.
The college freshman asking me to help edit his first few papers. The student texting me the book list of his university’s American Lit. survey course just to share. The one who emails to say thanks for preparing her for the writing—all the writing professors require.
Apathy only seems larger than hope when we spend our days ticking off the list of ways our students defeat us, weigh us down. When we only look at apathy, we stop caring.
But when we step back searching for hope? We find ourselves looking for ways to crack apathy’s shell. We remember the reasons we love this job. We remember it’s worth it.
Begin to list your beautiful moments. Make tally marks of the brilliant lights who remember to say thank you. Watch for the former students who pass by your classroom, look up, and smile. Take note of the beauty.
When you choose to look, you will find hope. It may be small, but it will be there.
On the undone days, I’m left with this—when I walk into my classroom I have a choice. I can choose the bitter or I can choose the hope.
Only Hope can lift the heavy.
So tell me, dear friends, tell me of the beautiful moments you’ve witnessed as a teacher. Let’s find hope together.