Have you ever reached a point you knew you had to stop trying so hard and call it quits?
The feeling nags me time to time but it’s when I’m under a lot of a stress with my mind flying to keep track of all the things I need to get done for my class. Because of the stress, I know I cannot let myself cave. But I wonder – what if I’m just not meant for this path?
For Halloween, the Kindergarten team of teachers decided we should dress up as M&Ms. I am a part of this team, but it wasn’t my idea and one I wasn’t too eager about. The costume entailed a colored shirt with a printed m and a matching tutu to wear on tights. Not the cutest outfit I had in mind, but it was definitely kid friendly so I went along with it.
The idea was to form a rainbow with our m&m colors. But one teacher was enamored by the special edition lime green m&m. Blue, red and purple were quickly chosen. I pondered about pink – then settled on black. I already had a black tutu from wearing my basic cat costume during my college years.
Somehow being the black m&m resembled my soul today. The students were frisky with excitement and I was the warden, constantly reminding structure could not be overruled. My mom has a saying – if you give a finger, they take an arm. I wanted my kids to have fun but to remember they are professional scholars at all times. During their mini parade around the school, under the eyes of many eager parents waiting to photograph their children, my class’s flair in grooving ceased. Back in the classroom they grew restless, but a stare from me or Ella and they were silenced.
It was just too much. My students were all so cute in their costumes and how excited they were, but Ella and I didn’t get prep the last two days. When our gym teacher called out sick yesterday, we were the last to know as we scrambled up a quick activity to engage our students. After school we had a literacy meeting and a swim team to coach. Our prep today was diminished to discuss achievement levels with our school psychologist in hope to address some of our students’ academic needs better. Once again we had an impromptu meeting about how to input report grades…which was discussed in yesterday’s meeting.
Not a second to ourselves with the list growing longer of demands, I realized I didn’t want this to be my whole life.
Some people work for the money and others work because they enjoy what they do. I realized I’m somewhere in between. As everyone, I need the money and even if I won’t go as far as to stay I love it, I do like teaching. But I don’t want my job defining me.
I’ve heard the staff room talk; teachers have personal lives they cultivate with special attention and hard work. In the end though, they don’t question themselves if they belong elsewhere. I define myself as many things – dreamer, lover, writer – but the teacher label is tricky. I am proud to be a teacher; the school has given me a set of a hundred of my own business cards to showcase my career and I love giving them out. But the frustration doesn’t disappear about the amount of work I bring home.
In the beginning it encroached on a lot. Just when I am getting into the swing of spending more family time, I realized I haven’t been writing. So easily overlooked and dismissed – like the way I awkwardly stood at the edge of the kindergarten teacher group picture and no one told me to scooch in more – I have realized that I’d rather the spotlight be on my description of myself as a writer than a teacher. That’s really who I’d rather be.
How can I stand in front of my class and tell them anything is possible and pursue their dreams when I chase a job to turn it into a passion?
Words are home to me. Not necessarily to speak them, but writing words – out in the open here or covertly – is my sanctuary when the bubbling cauldron of life bubbles over and scalds me. It’s the only part that brings me joy as I teach my students how to read and write. So for the time being, I hope to inspire them now so they will love expression and imagination even more when they are older.
Because with words on a pamphlet or a book or a menu, they can be any color of the m&m and not be the odd one out. The words inside of me and around me carry me, the lightness stripping my darkness.