“Good times and bum times,
I’ve seen them all and, dear,
I’m still here.”
(I’m Still Here by Stephen Sondheim)
Hello, January. Whether I like it or not, another year has rolled in and mixed feelings of reflection, anxiety, and a bit of optimism are fighting for my attention. I have no resolutions, vision board, or a “one word” to inspire me. I am just a tired teacher standing in front of a new year asking it to be kind and show all of us a little love.
Today as I was working on presentations, lesson plans, and my to-do list. I found myself humming a Broadway tune, I’m Still Here. (Thank you, Sondheim.) It is a very clever song describing the ups and downs of a career. The phrase, “I’m still here,” kept circling in my head. I caught myself chuckling while thinking about the ridiculous things I have done and memorable experiences I’ve had as a teacher over my many years in education. My role as a teacher seems to look different every year and I am still trying to figure things out. It doesn’t mean that on occasion I haven’t pondered the possibility of leaving the education bubble all together, but like many of you… I’m still here. It may be in a little different capacity than others, but I am still here.
I thought about the year I had 30 kids in my class and decided it was a genius idea to have the kids create Willy Wonka’s factory out of 30 refrigerator boxes after reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Absolute madness, but so much fun. I reflected on how I felt when state test scores became the priority and test prep seemed more important than authentic learning. Heart breaking and frustrating, but I learned how to tweak my instruction so students would be empowered and still do well on the tests. I thought about all the different grade levels I have taught and the opportunities I have had to partner with teachers as a coach and consultant. I reminisced about all the tools I have used through the years: mimeograph machines that spit out purple inked copies with a smell that you never forget, overhead projectors and vis-à-vis pens so the sides of your hands had temporary tattoos of the day’s lessons, VCR’s, lazer discs, Oregon Trail & Kids Pix software, Smart Boards, iPads, and now Zoom, Kahoot and Bitmoji classrooms. I’m still here.
This past year I taught writing classes online for elementary students and tutored some amazing kids that needed a little extra help. I loved every minute of it! I not only got to connect with these young writers, but I learned how to effectively teach online. Lots of trial and error, but I figured it out. I’m still here.
This fall I was able to start teaching as an adjunct instructor at our local university. Having a class of my own that met in person was an absolute joy! Planning lessons, differentiating instruction, trouble-shooting the Covid thing, building relationships, and on and on…. Loved it and I’m still here!
In between teaching students, I was absolutely honored to partner with educators from all over the place to share ideas, help plan and strategize things, and learn alongside each other! Whether we were Zooming or able to be in person together, I was constantly inspired by the hard work and effort educators put into their craft. It was wild and crazy, but I’m still here.
2022… I see you! My new college students will meet me in a few days. I will start connecting with teacher colleagues in workshops and planning sessions this week. I will work in classrooms with the most incredible educators on the planet in the next few months. It won’t be easy but there will be many moments of joy, laughter, contentment, and success. I’ll still be here.
I don’t seem to have it in me this year to set big goals or make major improvements of some kind. In fact, I guess I find the most comfort in realizing that even with all we face ahead in 2022… I’m a teacher and I’m still here. I am hopeful, yet often discouraged, nervous, but excited and … I am here. That’s all I’ve got. Right now, if that’s all you have also, it is enough! Wishing you more good times than bum times in the upcoming year!
(For those taking a step out of teaching or choosing another path… thank you! Thank you for being here for students, parents, and colleagues. You impacted teaching in a positive way and we appreciate you!)
Good times and bum times,
I’ve seen them all and, my dear,
I’m still here.
(I’m Still Here by Stephen Sondheim)