Each year that passes as an educator simultaneously feels like a lifetime and the blink of an eye. The days, themselves, are, in the moment, long and arduous, but when I get home, it feels as if I just left my house. The first staff meeting of the year bleeds quickly into the last, with a beach-themed presentation, and somehow in between – the days, weeks, months have dissolved.
I may be a teacher, but when I self-reflect, I learn just as much as my students.
Truths I have learned this year:
- It’s necessary to humanize yourself.
When I first became a teacher, I tried to maintain a healthy distance from my students in terms of differentiating who I am as a human vs. teacher. This year, however, I have allowed myself to be, well, me. I’ve given more of my actual self in the classroom – my vulnerabilities, my aspirations. In doing so, I’ve been able to develop a comfortable classroom culture more conducive to learning for everyone. Some of the conversations that have blossomed within the four walls of my classroom have allowed many walls to, ironically, break down. I’ve been able to watch many students who, in previous years, may have sank into the back wall become vibrant, outspoken, confident. Allowing myself to be accessible as a human has allowed others to be accessible as humans as well. I’ve told them that I’m a writer – that I’m working on a novel, and students have sought me out to shop their work, or give them advice on their own goals as a writer, allowing my love for the written word to foster their own.
- Graphic Design is kinda’ my thing.
A surprising emotional outlet for me, creatively, this year has been graphic design. Granted, my level of graphic design has been very basic, but it has taught me something new about myself that otherwise would have remained undiscovered. I’ve spent countless hours engineering presentations to catch the eye of those who, like me, are visual, and, in doing so, have truly found something I love, and seem to be good at, aside from writing. I’ve found myself looking into different options and programs to learn more about graphic design and make myself more marketable. At a certain point in life, you think you understand your strengths and weaknesses; what you don’t understand, I’m learning, are all those strengths you could have but have yet to try.
- I need to read more – in front of students.
I’ve always been a reader, from the time I was a small child. This year, however, I devoured so many books and tested out genres that, typically, I would have strayed away from. I’ve stepped outside of my literary box and found new interests that are inspiring my own art and encouraging those around me to read. For example, the wild, wild west has never before piqued my interest; it has just, for some reason, never appealed to me. But – despite my preconceived notion of what I think I will or won’t like, I picked up and began reading Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. This book is as non-fiction as it gets, folks, detailing the rise and fall of the Comanches. In moments, it is dry, but then you continue reading the page, and it is breathtaking and awe-inspiring while simultaneously beautiful and horrific. I’ve tried to keep what I’m currently reading on the corner of my desk, and I’ve noticed different students ask me about it, which has opened the door to in depth conversations about the literature. The result has been students wanting to borrow it from me when I’m done reading it. Let that one sink in for a moment – high school students have asked me to borrow a book about the history of the Comanches. Now, not only is my imagination swimming with ideas of historical nonfiction surrounding the tale of Cynthia Ann Parker, but my newfound obsession is contagious to those around me. My personal love for literature has been so obvious to my students this year that one of them surprised me with a copy of the first book I ever loved, The Christmas Puppy. I’ve learned that sharing what you love with those around you is infectious.
- Teaching is not enough, and that’s okay.
The omnipresent theme here is that I’m more than just a teacher. For my first three years in education, I allowed the job to envelop who I am as a person. This year, I’m finding a healthy balance between my profession and my passions and coming to terms with the reality that teaching does not have to be my all-encompassing passion. It’s okay that, for me, being a teacher is not enough, and it shows my students that dreams don’t end when you sign a job contract. There should always be a new goal, a new skill, and therefore new success, to celebrate. When you allow yourself to believe that you have learned it all, achieved your very last goal, you stagnate.
I’m more than a teacher.
I’m a learner.
I’m a student.
I’m a graphic designer.
I’m a writer.
I’m a reader.
I’m an amalgum of everything I ever have and will desire to become.
I am human.