Epiphany

Silence.

I’m surrounded by complete quiet and nothing will come to me. An idea or topic is as elusive to grasp as my motivation.

Since school has started, I’ve been in battle. Armored up to recruit kids and prove to them why their education matters. My arsenal includes motivational videos and creative freedom and is most times, met with indifference. This often leaves me uninspired, tired, and emotionally spent. Gone are the days, when students understood the value of education and just showed up to do the work. Today, I am expected to present the lesson in a way that’s appealing yet curriculum driven, and if I don’t, I must introspect. As teachers, we are asked to do the impossible. We cannot clock out even when we are in the comfort of our home.

Let me frame this just right:

This is my second year teaching. At a different school. Different culture. I honestly thought transferring would reignite my passion but it has further dimmed my desire to educate. I spend way too much time addressing behaviors, convincing the students of the value of Literature/their education as a whole, and trying to make up for the deficits in their skills. I expected challenge. Stimulation begets success, however the torrential downpour of not having the basics (reading comprehension, pen, paper) makes it impossible to obtain.

This is to say, when you are in a field you are not passionate about, you are rapidly cutting off more days of your life. Hobbies or goals you made for yourself start to take a backseat because you are either consumed by the job or consumed by fatigue. Either way, you aren’t feeding yourself in the way you need.

This experience has taught me, while yes I am passionate about making connections and sustaining relationships, I am not passionate about being a pawn in the educational system. I’m uninterested in being creatively stifled for proficiency in test scores. I’m not data driven. I’m people driven and the more focus placed on numbers, the less we build on relationships and in cultivating an environment of growth for the individual.

Public school has become a business in which teachers are salespeople marketing to students who aren’t in the market or bracket to grasp this antiquated way of learning.

Technology has made life much more difficult with the internet literally being the pioneer in which most acquire information. It has made us all lazy and incapable of doing the bare minimum. And since the system is still very much troglodytic, it creates added stress on the teacher. Yes, we are given permission to incorporate digitized activities, however, it does very little for critical thinking skills and gives way to an increase in plagiarism.

I realize I need to be in a space where I can build people to be their best selves. I motivate naturally and help identify areas of growth. I thrive in that area. Kids today have no grasp on conflict resolution, they mimic what they see on television or social media, and it affects their coping skills. I remember being their age and being absolutely terrified of a teacher overhearing me use less than academic language.  In today’s classroom f-bombs are thrown as casually as notebook paper.

And of course there are many other factors to consider; like their home life and support system. It takes a village, a community, and since we are no longer working in that mindset, teachers are often left to try to make up for that disparity. There are days I just would like to hold discussions, allow them to have a platform to speak about their feelings, their experiences, and those days I usually give in. I choose not to care about the pacing guide or common core or lesson plans I spent too much time creating. I do it because they need it. I do it because I realize this may be the only space they can express.

In all honesty, my goal is to finish the school year and my pragmatism tells me, I may only make it to December. I do not function well in survival mode. I am a mother first, wife, fitness enthusiast, a connoisseur of art and balance; and yet I have been failing in those areas. I am not thriving. Migraines are coming far too often accompanied with panic attacks at the thought of going back to work.

This is my accountability piece to myself. To take in as much from this experience but also know when to bow out. As I write this, I’m currently recuperating from a cold.

When the body is weary, it will shut down. It doesn’t care about responsibilities. It must be taken care of properly so it can function.

I challenge you to really examine areas in your life where you are merely surviving and subsequently,  have given up on things of interest. Remember that dash on your tombstone means the span of your life. What do you want it to represent?

5 thoughts on “Epiphany”

  1. Great piece, Ashlee! I can only imagine how challenging it is as an educator to get students engaged in literature and reading in depth. But I urge you to stay encouraged and keep improvising throughout the year to inspire our next generation. I say this because there are so few people like you who genuinely cares about their students’ success. To many children and teenagers, you may be their only beacon to the light of dormant creative ability that’s just waiting to release itself. If it wasn’t for the English teachers I had in elementary, middle and high school, I probably wouldn’t be an author today. Stay encouraged! God bless!

  2. Hey! Very thought provoking…as usual. I’ve always envied the roles of teachers in society and often reflect on the societies that are the most resilient, also happen to be the ones that hold their educators and academic institutions in the highest esteem. We have seemed to move away from this idiology preferring to be swallowed whole by the trappings of capitalism. But this was inevitable. When a society has competing priorities, one always wins over the other. So, this is where we are. As discouraging as that sounds you’ve decided to be part of the solution, not a self serving part of the problem. I plead with you to measure your success based on where your students are and not where you would like them to be. As you know I work with the youngest of human beings and it is only fair to acknowledge what you CAN do with what you are given. You are one warrior in their journey. Should that time be spent wishing what could have been or will it be something memorable that will positively impact their lives? There are three teachers in my whole life that I still reflect on (1st grade and 2 college professors) in terms of my journey. That doesn’t mean the others were irrelevant, it means that sometimes you will move mountains and sometimes you won’t…but my story could never be written without the contribution of the others. Again, measure your expectations based on what you’ve been handed. The silver lining and joy you seek is there, it’s just hard to see when you crave greater rewards than there are to receive. Enjoy the journey for you and less for the system. Gratification is staring back at you in the eyes and heart of your students. They showed up? Right?

  3. Ashlee, I want to start by stating that I hope you’re feeling better. I applaud your honesty and your understanding of how wasted time is the worst. I know we touched on this awhile back, so i am aware that this is something that is weighing on you. However, all that you wrote is correct. Passion and purpose usually goes together; one without the other can be incomplete. Lady remember to let your spirit lead you into your next place.

  4. Omg. I got chills. Ashlee, you inspire me and u give me the strength to keep going. It is hard to be somewhere where u feel is draining you. Follow your heart and dreams. I’m here for u. I love how you are so transparent !!! No one can use your truth against u

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