Within the next 48 hours, my career as a middle school educator will come to a close. Back in the dark days of November/December/January, I daydreamed of this day. I imagined that I would feel relieved and accomplished. I figured that I would be on cloud nine and proud of my students and my accomplishments. I foresaw the last day with my hands raised above my head and the triumph of success upon my lips.
But there are no raised hands or triumphant grins.
There are no tears of joy and the overwhelming realization of success.
I do not feel proud of myself or even remotely accomplished.
I feel defeated…
Drained from this year. Drained from learning and failing. This past year of teaching through TFA has taught me several things about the world, about education, about our growing generation. What is has taught me most about is myself. Or rather, what I thought I knew about myself…
- I am a class-A perfectionist. I will not stop at nothing, even if it literally causes me agony. I have spent many a night or weekend in this curse and it honestly isn’t “a good thing,” as my friends like to tell me. It makes me afraid to step out of the box or find a new way around an issue. It holds me back, rather than allowing me stand ahead or above.
- I am a guilty soul. I feel responsible for any bad thing that befalls upon my students, my co workers, my friends. Even if I have no control of the situation, I will still go home and cry over what I “could have done” to change things.
- I am shy and awkward at making new friends. I am dying for friends after this year. Not friends I can just grab a drink with and bitch about my day. Not just friends I can cook with and watch a movie with. I’m talking about cuddle in my bed, let’s spend endless hours together and tell each other everything to friends. Because my best friends from Georgia have been irreplaceable. But I need something in my life that resembles a true friendship. I need to spend the next year or so building myself into a true relationship of trust and selflessness with other likeminded, similarly aged people.
- I have a horrendous temper when annoyed. I can go from smiles to red in the face in under 10 seconds. Thanks kiddos for bringing that out in me.
- I have to have a job that brings me joy. Yesterday I asked my roommate how she was, and she answered, “I’m feeling amazing right now. Just really good about everything.” And I balked. When was the last time I woke up and truly felt like everything in my life was amazing? Hell, when was the last time I woke up and just felt joy in starting a new day. I have lived in an almost robotic state of mind, and since her one simple answer yesterday, I have not stopped thinking about how badly I just want to become alive.
- I am terribly terrified of being boring or settling for a normal life. I miss traveling. I miss seeing new things and meeting new people. I feel left out of the social conversation of change and transformation and in that absence of social dialogue, I see myself setting into a quiet conservative life, void of not only vivacity, but also a true and complete meaning.
- My self confidence is DOWN the tubes. This year has made me feel like a failure. It’s hard to face myself in the mirror some days. I’m not only self conscious about my appearances (again, another constant battle of my life), but also I have questioned my own personality. Am I boring? What do I stand for? Do I live out my dreams? Am I selfish? What do I have to offer in a conversation? Do I sound stupid? I consistently beat myself up as a side effect of this struggle of teaching and finding new friends and standing on my own feet. I have been my own worst enemy. The next year or two HAS to be spent in repairing the relationship I have with myself, or else I fear a lifetime of self-loathing.
- When all else fails, read. The hardest of days and the longest of nights have been repaired by picking up a good book and getting lost. My passion for reading has been renewed this past year.
- Sometimes being “nice” or “kind” isn’t good enough. My kids consistently call me the “nicest teacher,” and I just want to crawl in a hole and die. Because after I received my TCAP scores on Tuesday, I know that there are a handful of students I failed to teach to their full potential. They may walk away thinking i’m the “kindest teacher ever,” but what service did I actually provide? I wasn’t enough, even in my best. I can’t rely on kindness, it must be supplemented by competency and ability.
- I have a lot of growing to do and a lot more of me to become. I am not stuck in this state. “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
So I am defeated. I am beat down by the emotional struggles of graduating, moving to a new city, being homesick and having a very demanding job. I can’t change what I had done, or had not done. I cannot fix all my mistakes. I cannot un-cry the tears. But I CAN say that I made it. One year later, I am more self aware, I worked at something ridiculously hard and I allowed myself to learn from my mistakes. I gave it my all—and sometimes more—and I know I can walk away from the 2013-2014 school year; although rock bottom looks pretty horrendous right now, there’s only one place to go form here.
Here’s to an Up year. Vandy, be good to me.