In spite of ourselves, We are the great doorprize.
A quote from a John Prine song that is on George’s most listened to playlist.
Whether we like it or not, we are it. I can barely recognize my own worth and yet I am a human that people love. That people count on. Even though I feel like the messiest human in the room, I am the great doorprize. Just for showing up, you get me.
In my library job, five days a week, I have 4 opportunities per day to be my best self. To give of myself through a smile. It is a Groundhog Day type situation. I am keenly aware that the children’s behavior is viewed solely through my lens. What I accept as quiet enough at 9am could be the exact same as what I declare as too loud at 2pm. This is not the fault of the children or under their control. It is me.
Four times a day a class of 24 small people shows up and I have a responsibility and an intention and possibly a divine intervention to be a light. Can I be the doorprize today? Will these students win or will they get what is behind Door #2 the troll under the three billy goats gruff’s bridge?
I can watch my own rise and fall and rise again and fall again multiple times a day. I pull myself up to only tumble and crash. Perfection is unattainable and not even an option behind Door #million trillion.
The exhaustion. The skills and love required. Yet, the luck I have to be met with open hearts at one’s workplace. I would not change what I do. This beloved idea of community instilled in us by Martin Luther King Jr happens. Magic congeals as enough of the children in the class fall under the spell of a book. This moment of mindfulness when we the children and I mold into one and receive the same story. Laugh the same laughs. Sigh the same sighs. Await a happy ending together and find sweet relief. It can be pure beauty.
Season 2 Episode 1 of Abbott Elementary showed the impossibility of the job of teaching. Our whole profession feels slighted, under appreciated, and yet we show up. The tv show is celebrated and awarded. Yet, it seems a fact the teacher son Abbott Elementary will be treated as we are and nothing will change. The higher ups and bureaucracy will not even notice us- well, actually them. The principal is a joke. She could never bestow dignity or raises. The teachers are the only hope.
There was the blip in time when Covid began and children stayed home from school and parents all over the country praised us. “I can’t watch my own two kids all day. I don’t know how teachers do it with 24 in a class.” Parents marveled at our ability to feed and teach and manage bathroom breaks and cutting and gluing. We ate it up and swallowed our pride during a pandemic and hoped we would see change. All that appreciation and awareness and admiration had to equal up to something tangible.
A pay raise? Being able to keep our Wellness Wednesdays? Reminding our students, your children that we are all doing our best? Respect from the world at large?
I’m not sure what we thought would change? It felt during the crisis moments that our world couldn’t possibly just go back to the way we were. We had tilted off our axis.
And here we are a report card period into a school year with autumn approaching faster than usual, the teachers have been screwed in tight to their old positions. It wasn’t easy to drill us back into our old holes. The spiral notches had been stripped and scratched. We had grown feet and wings when hiking up mountains on Wellness Wednesdays. We had grown rings of confidence when managing our personal lives after school hours instead of grade books. The rings that allow the screw to be tight in the hole were transformed. We thought we would never be pigeon holed again. Never again would we use our own salary to but a vacuum cleaner to clean the rug that is our sacred community gathering spot.
But the world or at least those of us who survived Covid craved normalcy in the year after the worst of the pandemic. Change got trampled. Normalcy prevailed.
Those who last in teaching the longest are quite similar to the Abbott Elementary characters veteran teachers. Only try to control what is in your own lane. (I hate that saying.) Do not go up against bureaucracy- even if you win, which is very unlikely it will strip you of friends and energy. If you fight lots of good fights, it is doubtful that you will last more than a few years. The way to withstand the elements of administration and politics is focus on the room you are in. Make a better small world for your small students.
I have fought against this lesson too many times. And yet when it boils down to it, the child right in front of me is my doorprize and I am theirs.