I wish that I could become one of those people who can do the minimum. Just phone it in, do your best, then grab the keys and head home.
Those people probably sleep really well. I bet they don’t wake up at 3:15 AM wondering if the frogs that the kids caught are going to have enough bugs to eat in the morning. I bet they let themselves sleep an extra ten minutes past the alarm instead of getting up ten minutes before it rings so they can correct ten extra math papers before the school day begins.
I wish that I could learn how to really believe myself when I feel that I have done my best. I wish that I could put in a good day’s work and then just go home.
How do people learn to relax that way? I don’t know.
When I was a Mommy, I worried every night that I hadn’t been a patient or kind enough mother. I worried that the dinner I cooked wasn’t nutritious enough. I worried that I hadn’t listened to them enough, or read to them enough, or rocked them enough. I worried that I was too harsh, too permissive, too punitive, too lax.
They grew up to be pretty damn great, so I should trust myself by now, no?
Well, no. Nope. No way.
I work very hard at my job. I give myself heart and soul and mind to my students. I am so fully engaged in teaching my fifth graders that sometimes I feel as if my teaching time is the only real part of my life. The only time that I am fully present, fully alive, fully alert.
But even when I have begun the day at 6, raced through seven hours with the kids, planned great lessons, called parents, cleaned up my desk and dragged myself home again at 6, I am not sure that I have actually done a good job.
Why is that? It could be because my principal is biologically unable to say “good job”. It could be because a few years ago I gave up the job where I had earned a reputation as a solid professional and took on a role where I was unproven and unknown.
Perhaps it is my innate desire to change a life forever. I don’t just want to be a “nice” teacher; I want to be the one they remember in 20 years.
I’m tired. My back hurts, my knees ache, my eyes are sore. I don’t have time to read, or call my friends, or walk my dogs. I’m giving every ounce of my strength to my class. Every molecule of my being is devoted to getting it RIGHT. Meeting the state mandates. Learning the new rules and expectations, following the standards, fulfilling all of the requirements.
So how do I stop? How do I learn to do just enough to get by, instead of always trying to be great?
Just once, I wish that I could just freakin’ phone it in.