The Shoulders of a Teacher

In the beginning it was our dreams and aspirations we carried on our shoulders. We also threw in some hope and optimism just because we were told the road ahead may be rocky.

It did not take long for us to experience our first heartbreak. Maybe it was a student who was coming from a broken home. Maybe it was a child who you witnessed struggling either academically or emotionally. No matter what the scenario, you were slapped in the face with the realism that this garden of joy also contained thorns. You didn’t panic. Thank goodness you packed your hope and optimism.

Over the course of years, you noticed that you began to lose track of the volume of children or families that had come to you in need. Families and students trusted the weight of their world on your shoulders and your heart.  You willingly shared in their pain, worries, and fears. Gradually, you realized the labor of keeping a reassuring smile. You felt your optimism seep out of your clinched fists as you bore witness to the state of the world so many people were forced to live in. Before you panicked you gratefully thought, “Thank goodness I packed my dreams and aspirations because my hope and optimism are beginning to fade.”

With your eye on the prize, you relentlessly pursued the dreams of running the perfect classroom that you had coveted for years. You created, bought, and traded resources. You graded papers, constructed lessons, created seating charts, and developed classroom management plans. You watched some students succeed while being crushed with defeat when those few did not. You led, you followed, and you stumbled as you aspired to be a reflection of your steep expectations. You carry on with the worry that life replaced your dreams and aspirations with nothing more than the weight of failures both real and feared for in the future.

Looking back, it may appear that your hope, optimism, dreams, and aspirations somehow were not enough for this noble journey. The heaviness that comes from sleepless nights, time away from family, failures, discomfort, and struggles distracted you from what you had really picked up along the way.

The truth is that in the face of all you had to overcome you gained more than you ever lost. With your hope you gained courage. With your optimism you grew resilience. With your dreams you achieved perseverance. With your aspirations you acquired faith. You traded your heavy shoulders for a pair of wings.

Throw off the weights of guilt, shame, fear, or anxiety and choose to carry something far more valuable. Choose to carry each other. Pick up a colleague, student, parent, or caregiver. For it is when we learn to serve those around us that we realize heaviness only becomes a burden when it serves no higher purpose.

Thank you to all of the educators who have picked me up and carried me when I didn’t think I had it in me to my best. The patience, guidance, and love of those around me helped me to see my own strength and to never underestimate the power of a teacher’s shoulders.

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