In the days B.C. ("before children"), I was the first teacher to arrive at school, and often the last to leave.
I would get home at night, take a relaxing nap, cook a delicious meal, go TO the gym, catch up with a friend or two over the phone, and then spend my evenings grading and/or meticulously planning my activities for the following day-- designing worksheets from scratch, poring over surveys and exit tickets and other data so that I knew each of you better than I even knew myself.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, after I had the entire morning... and early afternoon... to, um, rest, from the social activities of the night before, I would carefully craft a week's worth of lessons that would put the architects of the Great Pyramids to shame.
I NEVER took a sick day.
I actually remember thinking, how do people with children manage to do this? I had such little time for anything else!
YOU were my kids. YOU were my life. I lived and breathed YOUR interests, YOUR learning styles, YOUR data. You had my full attention, and while it was hard work for all of us, we had a really good thing going.
But then I had a child of my own, and in more ways than I can count, things changed.
First, there was the guilt of abandoning you while I went out on maternity leave. Was this person substituting for me going to provide you with the quality education that I did? Was this person going to care about you? Did this person know the material, the standards, your favorite colors, or your current Netflix binges? And later, what if this person was better than me? Would you guys even want me back?
Now don't take this personally, but one look into my daughter's eyes, and I decided not to let that guilt bother me much. I now had a pretty big responsibility on my hands. Literally, she was a large nine-pound baby; but really, my mind became preoccupied with the idea that I had to keep this little person alive and I had no idea what I was doing.
When it was time for me to return to school twelve weeks later,* I quickly realized just how much things were going to change. Perhaps the most difficult part was that I had no choice but to accept this new routine.
Because I had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before after having to get up to feed my teething daughter three times, there was not going to be anymore arriving at school at the crack of dawn. I slept until the last possible second and prayed that I would hit all the green lights on the way.
There was no more staying after for hours beyond the work day. I had to rush to pick up my daughter from daycare, and then, like, take care of HER all night.
Any spare second I found on the weekends was spent either sleeping, cleaning, doing laundry, or sleeping. I would always attempt to give you a little of my time by grading something or thinking up some fun activity, but it usually ended up with me finding something pre-made on the internet and then calling it a day.
It's not that I did not love you any more. I did. It's just that when you have kids at home AND kids at school, it takes some time for a teacher's heart to learn how to balance the two. The time I spend at school is time with you, and time for me to live out my passion for wanting to help you realize how you can change our world. But that time is also time away from family. The time I spend at home is when I can be with my children and my husband, and time for me to live out my passion for wanting to be a devoted mother and wife. But that is also time you need for me to work on that stellar education with which I have be charged with providing you.
Four years and two kids later, I am still working through this. I am mostly past the guilt, and am learning to accept that I am only human. I am getting more sleep these days now that they are toddlers, but that's not to say that I'm well rested. Currently, we are transitioning my son from the crib to the bed, and while that probably doesn't mean much to you, Middle School Student, it means that your teacher fought the good fight until midnight, and then spent the rest of the night with half of a blanket and a child's foot in her face. Hence, the bags under my eyes, the lack of patience, and short temper.
All I can do is assure you that you still mean the world to me. I still care about your abilities to read, write, and bottle flip, that your pet goldfish just died, and that you prefer that we do anything other than complete worksheets in class. I may not grade things as efficiently, and I may not be able to tailor my lessons to your individual interests as I once could, but please know that I am doing my very best to provide you with the best education possible.
Most of all, please know that in my heart YOU, Middle School Students, are and always will be
*This was time that I elected to take. Thirty-five(ish) days were paid sick days that I had accumulated; the other weeks were unpaid. I teach in the United States, not Finland.