Dan and I met at the end of my first year of teaching. Back then I was an English-Only 6th grade teacher at a Spanish bilingual school. Looking back, it was probably an odd placement for me. I was properly certified to teach English Language Learners, but properly certified doesn't necessarily mean properly qualified. Many of my students had been in a bilingual classroom since kindergarten, but the program ended at 5th grade, so they were all unceremoniously dumped in an E-O classroom in 6th grade. With me. A decidedly green teacher who hadn't studied Spanish since her junior year of high school ten years earlier and who figured out pretty quickly that the language arts methods class had done little to prepare her for teaching reading and writing to actual children.
Although I was green, I was young, determined, and enthusiastic. And single. Evenings and weekends were wide open for me to devote myself to figuring out what the heck I was doing. Which was exactly what I did. One day while waiting to get my hair cut, I calculated how much I made an hour by dividing my annual salary by the number of hours I actually worked. I was making less than I had at my last job as a receptionist. I didn't care. I was happy. I was living my dream and was confident that I would soon be a pro at my chosen career.
Now, here I am almost twenty years later and I am still trying to figure it out. I am no longer green nor young and there are way more demands on my time. And yes, while I still remain enthusiastic, I have to admit that the enthusiasm has been dampened a bit by the realities and politics of teaching. What really frustrates me, though, is knowing that I should be better, that I should be further along in this journey than I am. I joined Twitter a couple of years ago and was amazed and inspired by the brilliant ideas I found being shared. Actually, stupefied might be a better word. How was it that I didn't know all these strategies? Why wasn't I doing all these amazing things in my classroom? How had I fallen so far behind?
There were possible answers to these questions, but ultimately they had to be acknowledged for what they truly were. Excuses. At that point, at that proverbial fork in the road, I had a choice: I could give up or I could start moving forward again. I chose to move forward. I may never reach the pinnacle I seek, but I know I sure as hell am never going to get there if I don't journey on.
The truth is, it is easy to get discouraged when you look at that long stretch of road behind you and realize you haven't accomplished all you had planned when your journey began. Even worse is realizing the stretch of road before you is shortening by the minute, and you are left wondering if you're ever going to get to where you thought you were going. You look around you and see all these other people who are so much more accomplished than you and you question if maybe you just don't have what it takes. It would be so much easier to give up and just go through the motions. Easier to just stay right where you are.
The other day I posted about a writing lesson I taught my students. I almost didn't publish it. It seemed so simplistic, so elementary, and I regretted that it wasn't more amazing and inspiring. I felt like it was something that everyone else had been doing forever. But it is where I am at this moment. This is the journey I am on, and if I am going to keep pushing forward, I have to be honest about where I am. I may be standing at the base of the mountain, but rather than be discouraged by all those who are further up the path, I will learn from them and follow their lead, knowing that they too once stood at the base contemplating the steep road ahead.
Over the last few days the words of Kris Allen's song, "Lost," have kept playing in my head: "Maybe I'm lost/But at least I'm looking." I have always loved the raw, honest emotion of the song, but I just recently realized that the reason it speaks to me is because it is about acknowledging shortcomings but refusing to give up. No, I don't have everything all figured out. I don't have all the answers. I don't even have all the questions yet. But at least I'm looking.
And so the journey continues.