The Importance of Being Earnest

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in my career is the importance of being earnest. Being earnest includes passion for my craft, love for my students, and patience in ALL things.

Being earnest is difficult.

Under my belt sits one and a half years of teaching. That’s three semesters of whining, crying, punch-dancing, and door slamming. And then there’s my students’ behavior! I would be lying if I said I haven’t wanted to quit — at least 8 times in the last 6 months. HOWEVER, I have not yielded. I have not given up. I have remained in musty room 8 with the crappy ProBoard, the stained carpet, and the mismatched desks.

My, how that sounds so dire, so hopeless. But I will be the first to say: all is not lost. As the semesters have passed, the breaks seem to get shorter and the kids seem to pay less attention and sometimes… on my darkest days… the fire that started my teaching career seems to fizzle and burn out. I experienced this at the end of my first semester, over a year ago. I had some very ornery boys in one class, I’d lost complete control in my last hour, I had messed up the grading, I had a long list of to-don’ts. I left for Christmas break in a proverbial fetal position, ready for a BREAK from the chaos that had become my life.

What I experienced over that break was overwhelming. I slept. I didn’t grade anything. I wasn’t talking for hours on end. I wasn’t having to send kids to the office. I had a break. A real life break. It turns out that the fire did not burn out, it had only dimmed. What God did to my fire over break was kindle it and make it burn a smidge brighter. I headed into the second semester with fresh eyes and a vigor for the subject, which I had never felt before. I had new students and a new heart. I would be lying if I said there weren’t struggles — because there were. But I had a heart for what I was doing; I loved it. And so things got better.

Fast forward through an amazing and much needed summer to the beginning of the 2013 Fall Semester. I was ready and willing and had a new teacher on my team. Within the first two weeks, I got too comfortable and I let a lot slide. My pacing was off. I was sick of the EOI prep. I was upset at the legislation put in place by people who didn’t know my struggle. I was upset with kids who didn’t give a flying fart in space about their grades. I was upset because parents wouldn’t support me in my decisions I made and the natural consequences that had descended upon their children. I was so ready for Christmas Break that I could feel it the MOMENT the first bell rung after Thanksgiving Break.

I desperately searched for the rest and peace that I’d felt last Christmas break, that peace that helped me ease into the second semester.

Empty. Dry. Nothing.

Monday came around and with it came a slew of problems: kids who wouldn’t work, a new mandate for teacher evaluation, an impending head-cold, the list went on. I sprinted through the day prepping for two new classes, making to-do lists the length of the Nile, running around to print my grade verification sheets… As the day closed, three things happened:

1. I realized just how much my administration cares about education and about me as a teacher. Thus, I felt appreciated and a little hopeful.

2. 90% of my kids passed their EOI and over 95% had a C or better (most with A’s or B’s). They’d earned those grades.

3. I love what I do.

At the end of the day, after teaching sentence structure and starting fresh with new students, I remembered that I’m here for a reason: I love teaching literature and writing. My philosophy is that my discipline is crucial to civilization. Literature, what is written and then read, connects us to each other. Writing, which is used for expression, also connects us to each other. The skills I teach in this class are so important in “real life.” Fifty percent of the grade is essentially following instructions, the other 50% is basically just learning how to interpret the world around us and then explain it to each other.

I have quite a few kids this semester that I know are struggling. But I will diligent and forward and we will succeed.

The importance of being earnest is that we can’t succeed without it. Not even a little bit.



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