Summer is quickly coming to an end. Don’t tell me it is still July…It’s almost over folks and you know it. You know it when you feel your palms sweat at the sight of a back to school ad. You know it when you feel your chest tighten at the mere mention of that nasty “A” word: August. I can tell you how I know it is coming to an end. It creeps into my dreams. All of a sudden flying unicorns become children in classrooms filled with crisis and chaos. This triggers my dramatic side and all of sudden I pitifully look at my children like I am preparing for a nine month hiatus into the depths of hell. You may even be one of us who checks your bank account daily to see if you can convince your spouse to let you stay home for a year-ternity. (That is when you say it will just be a year, but plan to weasel your way into an eternity.)
Teachers live for the summer. In June, we like to scream it from the top of the metaphorical mountain (that we just slayed) that we will be doing absolutely nothing for the next three months. A part of me knows that we may even like to rub it in the faces of those non-teacher people because they always like to give us shit about having the summer off. In their minds, that is why we should only get paid $30,000 a year. However, for us summer is the angel that reminds us of the beast.
The down time of summer reminds us that we are humans first. We do not lose our teacher instincts, so children not of our womb may get corrected in public, but overall we regain our humanity. We let go of something that we seldom know we are harboring, fear. We cease, just for a moment, to be afraid. We do not worry about our students’ failures or test scores. We let go of the anticipation we feel when faced with judgement from outside forces such as parents or administrators. We stop being afraid of not being enough for everyone. Our shoulders rest, our breath slows, our minds get an opportunity to focus. This harmony lasts for a few months and then gradually dissolves into the reality that August is here, along with a new beginning. The “F” word is back on center stage, lingering in your central nervous system.
Why does the upcoming school year create such a cocktail of fear in us? Well, I do not know you, but for me it is a bit deeper than dreading my alarm clock. The truth is that fear lies behind every beginning. I’m afraid of the challenge ahead. Every time I begin to think about something I am excited to do or begin, a caution sign quickly smacks me upside my head. Doubt picks up the boxing gloves and reminds me that my greatest foe, which crazy enough looks and sounds just like me, is about to battle. This little voice starts bringing up all the worries I may possibly need to entertain over the next nine months. Somehow, my mind convinces me that if I worry enough, I will worry myself into being completely prepared for the upcoming year. This is pretty close to the definition of insanity.
Yet fears greatest antidote is hope. This hope calls to our teacher souls. It whispers, this year may be the year you finally get through without falling on your face more than you care to mention. Maybe this year you will see next June without feeling the struggle that makes you think a part of your soul is dying or your liver is finally failing. This year might be the year that children behave, parents answer their phones, and administrators will not introduce new initiatives. Our joy for what we do rebuilds gradually as we arrange our desks, create our bulletin boards, or write out name tags for our class roster. Our vision holds possibility, instead of vulnerability. Yes, this tinge of hope gives just enough kick to get us in that door ready for the next generation of students. Like a whirlpool washing machine going from wash to rinse, our hearts cycle from fear to excitement.
My challenge to all of us returning to the arena this year is to see those opening days with clean lenses. Wipe off the fear, anxiety, and worry to see clearly. This year will have bumps along the way. It is supposed to. You are supposed to have bad days and moments of failure. You cannot summer your way out of growing. Look at the battle wounds and bruises of the past and smile. You are a fighter and that damn bell is about to ring again. A new round is coming whether you are ready or not. When you face yourself in the ring, realize that if you dance you will not need to fight. Dance with the fear, so that you may whisper to hope. You do not have to begin longing for next summer this summer, bring the peace and humanity you found along with you. It is your greatest self.
You are embarking on nine months that no “non-teacher” will ever get to understand because you change fucking lives! Your stress will be waiting, but so will your victories. What will you choose to see? Will you see the tests that piss you off? Envision the parent that did not return your call or the faculty meetings that you loath? Or will you have the courage and discipline to notice the students that are going to do something different in their lives because of the time they spent with you?
Release yourself from being the “fixer” of problems and just be the part that makes those around you whole. When the year gets tough, be the “you”, not the teacher, but the self you rediscovered in the warmer days of summer. Hold on to the version of yourself that you were crafted to be so that you can continue to have the impact you were put on this Earth to create. Let those summer days remind you that there is a reason you were drawn to this profession and it wasn’t for the three months off. You were drawn to the life of a teacher because you’re fucking awesome and our kids need you!
Here is to August. Cheers!