Am I enough?
Do I possess enough information? Have I learned enough? Will my team see through my insecurities? Will my students? Will my principal support me when I fall? Am I enough….
It’s amazing the thoughts that ran through my head as a teacher, and if I am honest, even today. I would bet any educator reading this could at the very least empathize with those questions...especially this one: Am I enough?
The weight that comes with being in education is heavy. It doesn’t matter the role you play either...administrator, counselor, teacher, assistant, district leader or support staff...it makes no difference, the weight is there. Why? Simply put, we are in the business of teaching children. The business of saving lives, providing hope, building a future, and instilling the foundation needed for a lifetime of success.
Unlike many professions, educators go to work each day with an understanding that lives are in the balance. For a moment, start thinking about the abilities a classroom teacher must posses in order to be successful… Here are just a few: Ability to build relationships, understand and transfer knowledge, teach a child how to read, write, add, subtract, think, empathize, line up, tie their shoes, follow directions, take turns, communicate, learn from mistakes, find meaning, and process new information, and by the way...there is so much more!
Before the year started I was having coffee with a friend of mine and he said the comment that I have heard countless times, “Must be so great being a teacher, I mean think about it...you barely work half the year, and the kids leave before three, could there be an easier job?”
I responded the way I always do, I smiled and said something like this, “Imagine yourself in a room with 22 children. Two of those children didn’t get to eat this morning, and their stomachs are churning like crazy, they hurt, and that is all they can think about. One student struggles to focus on anything for longer than ten seconds, and prefers to move around whether you are comfortable with that or not. One student didn’t sleep well last night because she was up listening to her parents fighting in the other room and now her eyelids won’t stay open and her mind won’t stop worrying. Five of your students already know what you are required to teach today, and once you start they will find something to keep themselves entertained, but it will be disruptive for the others. One student is going to get pulled for special education support, but don’t forget because you will need to make sure he hears and understands the lesson. Two of your students got into an argument before the day started, they sit next to each other, and neither are ready to stop arguing. Four of your students are not able to read, but today’s lesson is built around a third grade reading passage. One of your students was in same grade last year, and already received this lesson and struggled. Two of your students won’t stop asking to go to the bathroom, one because he wants to get away from the challenge, and the other because he just can’t help it. The other three students are sitting quietly ready to learn, but all three are going to ask countless questions throughout the lesson...Now imagine your learning objective from the state says: Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about expository text, and provide evidence from text to support their understanding...what would you do to make sure every single child is successful? Oh, and that is one of eight lessons for the day.”
My friend, who is a brilliant engineer, smiled and said, “Alright, I get it, it’s not easy.”
It’s not easy, far from it. Every day educators return to work, ready to give everything they have to the children they love dearly, but the question that often forms in the minds of many remains...am I enough?
The answer: Absolutely. To all educators, regardless of the title you hold or school you work in, understand this: YOU are more than enough.
When doubt begins to creep in, or the weight begins to press down on your shoulders. When more challenges than solutions start to appear, or the wisdom you need hasn’t been gained yet...remember these three things:
1. You are only human... Give yourself permission to fail, to not be perfect, and to be scared or confused. Give yourself permission to not have all the answers and remember that in time you will. While accepting that mistakes may happen is often difficult, it is also necessary. I will be the first person to admit this is hard for me, when I fail, I fail hard. When I struggle, I feel it deeply. Yet I am not alone in this, many of us want to be everything for everyone, to make all the right choices, and truly hurt when we fail to do so. Yet in the end we are only human, and if we fail to understand this... burning out can find its way on the table as a solution.
2. Keep your heart in the right place... In education your heart needs to be centered around the idea of hope and success for students. That, in itself, is more than enough. When challenges come, when things get difficult, you need to remember to keep your heart aligned with the calling you serve, and when the choices you make are made with that in mind, great things can happen.
3. You are not alone… In education, regardless of the title you hold, you are not alone. There are many paths to take with a statement like that...Whether it be faith, family, friends, or colleagues, hold on to the fact that you will never struggle on an island. I know for me there were many times when I felt this way...Yet when I opened my eyes and accepted grace and love, I found the support I needed.. The challenge in education is not a unique one, and it is felt among educators all over the world. So look to those who can support you, can empathize with you, and can provide a lifeline to safely. While you may not have all the answers, someone will, and all you need to do is ask. It is funny how difficult asking for help can be sometimes, but I promise there is someone ready to help without a single judgmental thought in place.
Am I enough? Am I enough to make a difference in the lives of my students? Am I enough to ensure my students have a foundation for a successful tomorrow? The answer is this: YOU are more than enough. So embrace the challenge, accept the impact you can have, and get back out there and make a difference each and every day...together.