The Secret Life of Teachers

I often wonder what those closest to me would think of my life in the classroom.

Because when I’m teaching, I’m a completely different human being than I am in “real life”.

Real Life Me is intelligent and mature; thoughtful and educated; sophisticated and cultured.

Teacher Me dances around classrooms and turns every set of classroom instructions into choreographed musical extravaganzas. Teacher Me speaks in ridiculous accents and uses over-the-top dramatic reenactments to illustrate new concepts. Teacher Me laughs at fart jokes and tortures children by eating doughnuts from the lounge right in front of them. Teacher Me is absurd and immature and weird.

People in my Real Life rarely get to see the teacher side of me. In fact, 95% of them never do. And I’m secretly relieved about that. Because if the people in my life saw the Teacher Me? My family would get me professional help, my friends would unfriend me, and I would never go on another date again ever.

That’s why I hate when other adults are in my classroom. I’m never the “real” Teacher Me with other adults. (Unless that person is a classroom aide. Those aides have seen it all… and they keep coming¬† back… God bless them.) When other adults are in the classroom, I’m focused and serious and on top of my kids. It’s not much fun. I morph back into Real Me – the well put together, “normal”, contributing member of society… and the kids wonder if I’m feeling okay.

But that’s the cool thing about being a teacher… you get to set up your own community… your own family… where everyone gets the inside jokes and you speak the same language and you communicate with head nods, grunts and raised eyebrows. My students get to see a side of me that no one else sees – I get to be totally and completely weird with them – and that’s a pretty cool privilege. With my students, I can have a totally absurd conversation about the consequences of nose-picking and erupt into a fit of giggles with all the rest of them when someone lets out an exceptionally noisy fart right in the middle of sustained silent reading. I don’t do that in real life! No one does that in real life! But having a classroom full of kids evolves into a familial relationship – I probably spend more time with those kids than I do with anyone else in my life. If I can’t laugh with them, then it’s going to be an exceptionally long nine months.

I think it’s easy for adults to forget what we were like as kids. We’re so busy trying to get kids to be good –¬†to excel and work hard and try their best and be good friends and make right choices – that we forget they’re just little weirdos – walking around, being weird, trying to get better about not being weird because it’s not “normal” to be weird, when the fact of the matter is… Kids are weird! Eventually they grow out of it… but during their childhood… sometimes they need to be weird! Just like I need to be weird. We all need a safe place to be weird. And if my classroom is their safe place to be weird with their weird teacher? Then I think I’ve done my job.

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Beauty in the Mess

The first day or week of a new year always brings about a flurry of excitement. Big expectations and high hopes for what the new year will bring. Endless optimism and determination to make it the best year yet. Some people hope for big answers to prayer, others are longing for a return to normal after a tumultuous year.

Every year I used to go through this.

New Years Day always brought with it heightened anxiety and desperation for big changes, better things, and happier times. Honestly, there were times I would spend the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s praying feverishly for something “good” in the new year. An answer to prayer, a respite to suffering, a resolution to a problem, a dream come true – something… anything that would just make that year different and maybe a little bit better than the year before.

And now?

Now the new year means little more than heading back to school after Christmas break.

And you know what? I’m happy about that. Gone is the anxiety and desperation for something bigger and better. Because every year is going to have its share of ups and downs, good times and bad, successes and failures, happiness and heartbreak. Because that’s just life. That’s how it works. Worrying yourself to exhaustion through gritted teeth and sheer determination to somehow create a better year for yourself… well, it’s just not worth it. God’s got it under control. Nothing we do or say is going to change the future. We just have to trust that He’ll make all things work together for our good.

I look back at my life the past few years and compared to other people, my life thus far has been a roller coaster. I’ve been through more changes in my measly 30 years than many people experience their lifetime. I feel like I’ve lived 5 or 6 different lives instead of just the one. Every season has been so drastically different from the one before that sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what life was like before this present season. It’s difficult wrap my head around the fact that at one point in time, my life looked nothing like it does now. My seasons of life have differed so drastically that they look like the different lives of different people… but in reality… it’s just my life.

And you know what’s funny? I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Most people have the one life. They do the thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing that leads to the next thing until they look back at their life and they discover they’ve forged a neat little trail of experiences that fit perfectly into “their plan”. My experiences have never fit into my plan. Instead, my life has been a series of dead ends and detours and round-abouts and endless road construction. I’m honestly not completely sure how I got from Point A to Point B, and I haven’t a clue what lies ahead at Point C.

But really… How exciting is that?!

I would hate to have a boring, scripted life. I never wanted an ordinary life. I used to pray for God to give me a “Life Less Ordinary”. And you know what? He has. Every heartbreak, every disaster, every situation I thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t recover from has made me into the person I am now and brought me to a place where I never thought I’d be. Every roadblock and dead end and detour has resulted in a mixed up yet gloriously beautiful road map that simply glorifies God and testifies to His goodness. That’s what God does when you let Him take over. When you give up on your perfectly scripted plan and give into His… it ends up being a messy, wonderful, exciting ride that just gets better with every failure and every triumph.

So, bring on 2018 with all its messiness. I’m thrilled to bits to see what He’s going to with this new year.