Perseverance vs. Pity Parties: How Students Schooled This Teacher

Some days I sit in my classroom and get angry and feel sorry for myself. It's a stupid game I play  called, What does it take to get a little recognition around here? For seven years my district has teased me like that girl who used to flirtatiously poke you in the ribs during algebra class. The girl who you thought you had a chance with, but found out through her best friend that she was dating someone else the entire time. She just likes to mess with people's minds.

AAA wouldn't be so bad if I could break Joaquin's
minor league home run records.  "Swing Away!"
Four temporary contracts and two long term sub jobs in seven years would seem to get someone a little positive karma; but then again, maybe I'm just that guy with AAA talent. Good enough to temporarily fill in some holes as a utility player, but not good enough for the everyday up in the Big Show (-- a baseball analogy to my sports illiterate friends). Nobody will tell me if I have major league talent or not. No scout, manager, GM, or owner has ever sat in my classroom. Not ever.

And so I brood. I'm fed up. I'm tired. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm too old to be teased.

But this isn't a feel sorry for me article. God doesn't allow me much self-pity. Because no matter how bad my day is going, my magnetic personality seems to attract some anemic soul, desperate for guidance. These kids just seem to be drawn to me, I don't know why. Kids with little to no social skills.  Kids who try to tease me back by saying things like, "you're probably not a good athlete anymore because you got fat." I don't need that brutal honesty in my life; but I recognize that these kids were never taught social norms. Many of my students were never taught much of anything.

Everything one needs to know about
mankind is taught in LOTF.  
So outside of thesis statements, Antigone, Lord of the Flies, persuasive techniques, grammatical rules, a brief history of Iran, how poetry speaks to our lives, the most entertaining 50 minute lecture on everything you need to know about WWII (a pre-teach to Slaughterhouse Five),  I find I'm giving students ethics, sociology, personal responsibility sessions, psychological foundations, relationship advice, personal finance decisions, and general future guidance through my personal anecdotes.  (And teaching them not to write run-on sentences like I just did).  

I'm not saying this makes me different than other teachers--we all deal with way more than just curriculum and grading.

Like most other teachers I often feel overwhelmed with emotions. In one of my classes of 28 sophomores, five different kids are dealing with a parent divorce (ALL THIS MONTH).  Two others are going through horrible custody battles.  One boy is trying to get emancipated because his mother is a lunatic (my professional diagnosis).  I have kids trying to kick drug habits before they are 17 years old. I have a super sweet pregnant girl who got kicked out her parents home, and is realizing that her "man" is nothing but jerk. They all confide in me, as if I have magical answers and healing powers.

Different city, same general quality of parenting. 
The world has not acted kindly to the little segment of inhabitants that I have the fortune of teaching.  To be blunt, life has f***d these kids over. It's not fair. And many are making genetically bad mistakes, because their own parents didn't know how to express love or administer right discipline.

Suddenly my little recognition around here game doesn't mean so much anymore. The $10K difference between being a full time teacher and being a sub will not make or break my home. It will cut into my "comforts," but it is nowhere near the harsh realities that my students face everyday.

Even at the end of my worst day, I know that God loves me.  I know that my family loves me.  I know that I am not defined by the events of the day. I know who I am.

I wish they knew the assurances I know. I wish they had been loved like I was growing up. I wish they knew the love of a spiritual Father. I wish I could tell them. I wish I could right the wrongs of a lifetime of failures.

But all I can do is teach about life--what I've learned, and hope they make better decisions in the future. On the other hand, they've taught me so much about perseverance and that indefatigable will to push on despite the unfair treatment of a cold, uncaring, world. It doesn't seem right to have a pity party, when I'm living the good life in comparison.

Ohh, I love me some cheesy motivational posters.  

12 comments:

  1. Amen. My sentiments exactly. How these people carry on floors me. Thanks for writing this, Chris.
    Janet

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  2. Thanks for sharing... I come from a long line of teachers, my son-in-law is an inner city special ed teacher in CA and have several close friends who are teachers. Your witness to the kids will last a life time... you will be one of those teachers that they will tell their kids about. Sometime it is hard to see or understand why God has us in a job, but when we are willing He can use us... whether we see it or not. I will add you to the list of teachers I pray for... and pray for me as I work in a very liberal school environment and sometimes wonder the same myself. While not a teacher, I work in an office where I do interact with many students as well as diverse co-workers... God hasn't released me to retire yet... so I keep asking Him to strengthen me and enable me to be a good witness. Keep living your faith before your kids... Others may never have sat in your classroom... but God has and does daily... :) Blessings! Ruth Johnson

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    1. Thanks, we could always use prayers. Good luck in your career. Am praying.

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  3. Thanks, Chris. Great message for all of us who know the love of God and family and friends.

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    1. Yes, God, family, friends=good company.

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  4. Did you drop an F bomb? I think you've read too many of my articles. Ha. I tease of course. You said it bud, life is pretty easy when we compare stories to others.

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    1. Well, to clarify, I alluded to the F bomb. Or maybe censored myself. A good swear is not outside my vernacular...I just hope to use them sparingly or when absolutely necessary.

      Agree about our lives.

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  5. True. You know, I still remember the most compassionate teachers I had who made a difference simply by listening and encouraging - not that my home life was measurable by the same standards - but what I'm saying is you're making a tremendous difference, whether anyone acknowledges it or not. I think it's the greatest crime that this country so devalues its teachers.
    Also, it's true - everything I learned about life, I learned from LOTF.

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    1. Pssh, teachers. Who needs 'em. Obviously not the boys on the island in LOTF. They did just fine on their own.

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  6. Nothing like students to put our lives in perspective. They're lucky to have you, and even if your school district doesn't recognize you, they do. Keep on keeping on, and here's hoping you get a chance to be a stable adult in some kids' lives again next year.

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  7. Chris,
    Sorry I didn't see this earlier. I've been swamped but I wanted to tell you that you're doing the right thing. God has you there for a purpose. You are helping even on the worst days, when it seems like nothing is getting through. You are a light in a dark place and trust me those kids notice. It takes courage and tenacity to continue in a situation that sometimes feels so hopeless but God always makes good out of bad. You're a really great teacher. You make a difference. You are storing up treasure in heaven my friend. Hang in there. I'm praying for you.

    Elena

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