Life goes by quickly and the older you get the faster it moves. The older I am getting (yes, I am about to be 23 and starting “the real world” here, soon) the more I’ve come to realize how to deal with this sort of half-life cycle I feel I am going through.
Over a year ago, I was in the process of arranging a placement for my final leg of my teaching degree; student teaching, somewhere abroad. I was happily placed in the Land of Oz where charming accents, ancient aboriginal customs, and stunning sceneries have entranced my mind. I was told I would get TEN WHOLE WEEKS in a land of perfection. The crazy part is that those ten weeks are about finished…I am on my final week of student teaching in Australia and I couldn’t be sadder and excited at the same time. You see, I have learned to love these little curly-headed, coughing, sneezing, hugging (if you know me I’m not a hug-er of a person), brilliant minded, 5 year old children. They have taught me more than I believe I could have taught them. The mind of a 5 year old is truly endless in their imagination, memory capacity, and wonderment. These kids unintentionally changed my view on life. I now see the world as a 5 year old might: questioning what can seem ridiculous, telling people what I really think because in the end that is all a person really wants to hear, and enjoying playtime (free time) whenever you are given the chance. A 5 year old has taught me not to hold back with all things mental, physical, and emotional.
It is fascinating to me how I now see a 5 year old as more capable of anything than a well-off 50 year old. Sure, they don’t have the experience, but their pure minds tell them they literally have no capacity on the amount of information the brain can store. My Kindergarten students at the age of 5 are all taking a language five days of the school week. They can speak a better second language (options of Italian, German, Japanese, or French) in just 10 weeks of learning it than I can in 5 or so years of learning Spanish later in life. It is crazy how much their little heads retain, and more importantly, apply to the world around them. As older human beings, we could learn a thing or two from these little ones.
But what about your teachings Miss Dudley? What did you learn in those ten weeks of teaching from the adults, not just the kids…?
I learned heaps (yes, “heaps”. That’s pure Aussie slang for ya!). Anyways, I’m not going to bore you with strategies or techniques I have picked up because frankly that’s not the most interesting part of what I want to share with you. What I want to express, not only to teachers, but anyone in this world with a job/career. As many of you know, people watching is my favorite hobby! So, obviously, I “creeped” on my teaching staff. I observed their moods, their actions, their reactions, and their verbalization’s. I studied old teachers, new teachers, casual teachers (substitute teachers), and the cafeteria staff. They all have one thing in common, they all LOVE kids but I have concluded that they don’t all LOVE working with 24 (or so) of them at a time. I understand, though. It’s a tough career where you have got to be ON for 8 hours of the day because you are the role model and the map reader of these kids’ futures. You are the one they see for the majority of their waking hours. You are the one making sure all of their survival needs are met: using the restroom, eating, safety. You are the one simultaneously taking care of these needs and teaching them things that will guide them to a rewarding/successful/happy/fortunate path in life. A teacher can mold, adjust, strengthen, weaken, disappoint, or inspire all of their students. If you ask me, that’s a lot of pressure. A lot of strength. A lot of courage.
Teachers will break at some point in their career. There will be that one incident or school year where they will think they have failed and can’t continue because we aim to please, and the disappointment hurts. I have seen some amazing and courageous teachers in my time here, but I have also seen some broken and ashamed teachers as well. For a moment during my creeping, I thought, “they just have to push through this and move on! You can do it!” but now I have a different perception. If you don’t love what you are doing, have a smile on your face for more than 75% of your day, or feel exhausted in the process, then you should stop what you are doing. This isn’t a bad thing! If it’s ruining you from living your life, then you need to stop. It doesn’t benefit you or your students by giving half of what you’ve got.
I think I get this idea from my mom. My mom is a very, very happy person. She loves life because I think she has found the secret to it. She has discovered how to bravely jump off that swing that doesn’t fit right anymore. My mom has changed jobs voluntarily several times. From a Ronald McDonald worker taking care of sick cancerous kids, to a small gift shop owner, to a coffee shop server, to a World Market bathroom washer (for a day), to a school secretary. I believe my mom has done all of these things because she has the courage to say “I’m done” when she feels the job has not brought her any more enjoyment to her life. My mother has a four year degree, but that doesn’t mean she should restrict the rest of her life to using it for its purposes. She seems to me like the happiest 49 year old woman I know! (Sorry for exploiting your age mom but…you don’t look a day over 30!). She’s not afraid to try something new that sounds appealing. She’s not scared to back away from something that no longer satisfies her happiness and because of her I now see in these teachers I have “creeped” on, a life coming to the question of “do I even love this career?” And if only I could urge them to try something new. To give something else a go. To get off that unhappy and unrewarding path of misery for the sake of yourself and for the students you are teaching. There should be no shame in a change of lifestyle for happiness.
As I enter the teaching profession, I will always keep this in mind. I will always stay true to happiness, and if teaching does not make me happy one day, then I should find something that does. No question about it.