I am on my third day of hybrid instruction. I don’t necessarily want to slice about it as I feel I am still too close. And I prefer to get some distance and allow things to percolate. But as I was pouring my anger and frustration into my notebook yesterday and today, I realized how freeing it was to let that go. How freeing it was to go in unfiltered and let it all go.
My original post, which I had planned, continues to help me through these times.
I graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi. And as I attended the Gulf Campus rather than the Main Campus, I graduated with a tiny group. My professor, academic advisor, and mentor took us out to lunch one day. I had just completed one of the most challenging years. I had continued working for a while at the writing center while I was a student-teacher (the program discourages students working during the program for a good reason. I don’t even want to get started on how much expecting students to work for free an entire semester limits access to so many who can’t afford to do so.) Sitting there days before the graduation ceremony, it still didn’t sink in that we would graduate. I had just completed it by what seems the skin of my teeth.
She told us to tell her anything that was on our mind, so I took that chance, and quickly I spilled all of my worries. The burnout rate, the fact that teachers’ average career-span is so low—that teaching is the hardest job I have ever done, and I was in the army. That as hopeful we are for students, what’s going to happen when we run into obstacles about standardized testing and the fact that so many people making the decisions are so far removed from the classroom that many initiatives are not conducive to growth. She quickly grabbed my hand. She looked me right in my eye and said, “stop!” she then grabbed a paper and pen from her purse, and she drew a circle. She said, “here is all you can control, all you have direct power of. And here, you have everything else,” she scribbled a much larger circle encompassing the first circle. I’m paraphrasing but she said something to the effect while pointing to this much larger circle, “here, this is everything out of your control; everything you’re saying belongs here. You cannot stay there. You have to focus on your sphere, the way to stay in this circle is to continually grow, first and foremost to find the teachers who can help you. Lean on like-minded educators and know that the work, although difficult, can be done. Also, attend conventions such as NCTE and recharge. Come back into the classroom and find your authentic teaching self.”
When she told us all this, there was no way she could have known what was coming and how this year has been met with a struggle. But I’m glad she said all those things to me.
Oh, and hybrid instruction is going well. Well, at least much better than I had thought. That said, it is hard not to feel like a failure. Today I reread a poem (Domestic Barbarians by Adam Clay), and the lines that stick out are: “Each day’s a failure, / but failures accumulate into / something substantial. I feel / most sure of myself when / I’m suspicious of myself.” And I suspect as much is out of my control as much is not within my circle of power, I can make small changes to do better. So I will keep focusing on what I can control. I’ll keep leaning on educators that care and support me. I’ll keep learning and growing. Best of all, I’ll keep writing.