When I was little I looked up to my teachers, thinking they had all the answers. Thinking once I grew up I’d know as much as they did and things would be easy. The struggles one deals with between academia, friendships, relationships, family a balancing act of it all, I thought I’d grow up and those things would magically find order within themselves and I’d find peace. As a teacher stands leading us, in the front of the classroom, I thought about one day.
What I began to realize only when I became an adult and I use that term lightly because I still don’t feel the way I thought I would at nearly 27, I realized it isn’t all figured out, that we are all navigating through the complexity and obstacles that life throws at us. We are all trying desperately.
But teachers have a tough job more than most playing the role they need to, being the example they need to, appearing like they have it all figured out when in reality I look back wondering how many teachers of mine held back tears between bells only to compose themselves by the time they had to start their lesson plan.
I look back with more sympathy and understanding. The teacher at 11 who left halfway through the year I found out years later she went away for an eating disorder. The teacher 13, who gave me someone to confide in when I got bullied dealt with the same things as an adult. The teacher at 14 who to, faced a lot of the same internal battles I did only we never spoke about those things, there was understanding without dialogue and a connection I couldn’t explain freshman year. The teacher 17 who held me when I cried after the boy broke my heart senior year, I found out only later called off her engagement right around that same time.
The very real things I faced so young, I realize they were dealing with too. Only they had to be strong. They had to be brave. They had to show up even on days they probably felt emotionally too depleted to leave their beds in the morning.
To the teachers who heart breaks and we don’t see it,
I don’t know what it is you’re going through. Maybe it’s a breakup. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe you’re worried about income. Or there is family drama. Maybe mentally you’re struggling and no one has asked if you’re okay. And your outlet is looking at your kids and finding any sign for those who are struggling too and getting them help. Maybe there is drama and gossip in your department and this week you’re the target. Maybe you’re in a relationship that’s hurting you but you don’t know how to let go. Maybe you’re overwhelmed because there is so much to do and not enough time to do it. Maybe the respect you think you deserve for all you do isn’t being met in a light that you deserve. Maybe you’re going home to a stranger and you don’t know how to fix the distance between you two. I don’t know what you’re facing. But what I can say is thank you.
Because with everything that feels like such a heavy burden and sadness that is all consuming, you still manage to smile every time your students walk in. You still manage to laugh and tell jokes and make a lesson entertaining. You still manage to be selflessly more concerned about your students then you are yourself. Every you put them before you and that takes the strength of a thousand men to carry yourself with poise and grace and still be an example they can follow.
I wish you weren’t dealing with the things you were. I wish there was something I could do or say to make this feel less heavy. I wish you all the happiness and peace you deserve. But you aren’t there yet. And you still have a bit of a storm to walk through. You still have days where you have to put on your brave face and be stronger than you’d like to be sometimes. You still have a job you need as much as they need you. So I want to say thank you again.
You chose a profession devoted to others and it’s easy to get overlooked and have people see through you. Carrying yourself in a way that makes it look easy and no one takes the time to ask if you’re okay or wait for an answer. You deal with parents, teachers, administration who never seem to be happy at the same time and you are the one who gets all of it projected onto them. And I’m sorry about that.
But I see you. I commend you. I look up to you the same way I looked up to so many educators when it was me on the other side taking too many notes and worried too much about my GPA. And more than anything I thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do because some heroes don’t wear capes. Some are dressed by 6 AM and have a smile on their face despite the pain and confusion they feel with hopes only of changing the lives of those who walk through their doors.