I just recently turned 40 and am currently in my 19th year of teaching. It just struck me that I have now been an educator for almost half of my life! I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl and every decision I made about my future was a step towards achieving that dream. I never even considered any other career and I have never regretted it for a minute. There have been amazing moments and really, really difficult days, but I truly have a passion for my job and consider myself so lucky to love what I do.
On Friday, my principal came to see me personally to tell me I was nominated for a very prestigious award. I was so in shock, so honored, so flattered, so overwhelmed. But, I didn’t want to tell anyone, even though the majority of my best friends are teachers at my same school. I was almost embarrassed and didn’t want to seem like I was bragging. I called my mom (who acted like I won an Academy Award- she was so excited) and she told me I was being silly not to share the good news with my friends. I am also not the type to shout good (or bad) news from the mountaintop. I did end up sending a group text and they all congratulated me, which was very sweet.
I have felt like a failure a lot in my personal life, from my dysfunctional childhood to my strained relationship with my dad to my struggles with anxiety to my marriage and subsequent divorce, I feel like I suck at life sometimes. The one area where I have always succeeded and felt confident is in my career. I have won other local teaching awards and I know I am respected in my school. But honestly, underneath all the excitement of this amazing nomination, there was a thought in the back of my mind..”why me?”…”I don’t deserve that”…”I won’t win that”. I know I work hard and I care SO much about teaching, but I still felt…undeserving.
I wrote a blog around the time of my 40th birthday where I reflected on my fear that no one would come to my birthday party (which of course they all did). I shared that fear with my sister and she said to me, “you do nice things for everyone else and are so thoughtful and generous, why do you think no one wants to do that for you?” and it is because I felt…undeserving. Why would anyone want to celebrate ME? I don’t have really low self-esteem, but I think there is some aspect of my childhood that is tucked deep into my brain that makes me feel like I am not good enough. I guess that is common for children of alcoholics. Maybe my 12 year old self felt like if I was good enough maybe my dad wouldn’t drink?
I am very excited and honored about this nomination and I am going to really try to push those negative feelings away and focus on being happy about it, because deep down under those thoughts of not being good enough, I KNOW I am a good teacher who truly cares about her students.
I am a really, really good teacher. I can say that without feeling like I am being conceited because I often think it is really the only thing I’m good at. It’s certainly the one area of my life where I have been the most successful. Anything I have set out to achieve in my career, I have done with drive and passion. I teach high school and college English and am very proud of my profession. It isn’t always easy, but it is beyond rewarding. This sounds cliche, but I think teaching was a calling for me. It feels natural and satisfying.
The other areas of my life…not so much. Teaching has always been a bit of a salvation. When I was dealing with my crazy family and alcoholic father during my teenage years, my goal of being a teacher drove me. I knew better days were ahead…I dreamt of being 30 and immersed in my career. My desire to be a teacher bonded me with my mother and grandmother, who had also been successful teachers.
When I was suffering from anxiety and agoraphobia, my doctor suggested me going on disability. Even though going to the grocery store had become hard, going to work was still a safe place. My job saved me during that time- it forced me out of the house and made me focus on people other than myself. At that point I needed my students more than they needed me.
Getting divorced was the hardest thing I ever did. I literally cried hours and hours every day for almost a year. I was a mess. Teaching became not just a vocation, but a vacation from my life outside of school. Once I stepped into my classroom, I was free for a few hours. The sadness was always there, but my kids made me laugh and I was able to forget for a while. My coworkers were wonderful and supportive, too. I am a private person, so people didn’t know exactly what was going on, but still stopped me to say a kind word in the hallway.
My best friends are teachers I met at my school. I sometimes feel like I don’t really fit in in some social situations. I’m lucky enough to have met really special people where I work.
It makes me proud that I have accomplished so much in my career, but I worry sometimes that I feel like a failure in other areas. I wish my confidence as a teacher translated into other parts of my life. I would fight tooth and nail if I felt I was being treated unfairly or badly at my job, yet I don’t do that in my social life. I have a tendency to be a doormat, yet I feel like a leader in my work environment. I know I am respected by my colleagues, yet I don’t always get treated with respect by the people who love me.
I would not change anything about the choices I have made in my career…I wish I felt the same way about everything else in my life.