Today is my last day teaching this school year. I’m not sure when baby will arrive; it’s been strange to know that my life is about to change immeasurably but that the change could come at any time in the next month or so. I spend a lot of time “researching” early signs of labor and wondering if what I’m feeling is a contraction or a stomach ache or just an ache from loosening joints and extra weight around my middle.
When I first started teaching, I was scared. I was afraid the kids wouldn’t respect me. I remember using those windows of prep time for catching my breath, feeling relief at the opportunity not to be “on,” more than for grading or for prepping. I was newly single, having just ended a four year relationship that I’d thought at one point would lead to marriage. I was lonely, but I loved my job for the first time in my life. I was never bored. At the end of each week, I felt as deeply satisfied as I did exhausted.
In the years since then, I’ve grown more confident in the classroom, more certain that I”m in control, and less concerned that students might not like or respect me (though it is still absolutely awful to encounter a hostile student). The prep periods have become filled with student meetings, grading as fast as I can, and trying to do everything I can to maintain a work-life balance. Along the way, I’ve made some mistakes–bad assignments, teaching books in a weird order, not giving very clear feedback, getting too invested in one struggling student, or taking on more than I could reasonably handle (coaching three seasons, planning a wedding, teaching four different classes, three of which were new…). I’m at a different school.
Though I’m still never bored, I’m not bone-achingly tired by the end of the day, or even the end of the week anymore. I work in the same building as my husband, which not only is convenient, but also totally changes the sense of aloneness I felt in those early teaching years. I have an ally in the building (something I think most teachers feel they never have–it often feels like a lone man/woman trying to do his or her best by students, teachers, administrators, peers, and often without feeling that any of these many people for whom we are working so hard are actively supporting us, or even hoping that we’ll succeed).
I have spent more years teaching than I did in college and graduate school combined. I dedicated more physical and emotional energy to doing this right than I ever have to anything before–even running or my own writing. But, on Monday when our 5:00am alarm goes off, my husband will head to work and I won’t. I’ve thought a lot about what I imagine the parallels between teaching and parenting could be. The stakes are high (though please, never let me lose perspective and fly into the school on my broomstick when my little girl gets a B+), the physical and emotional investment intense, particularly in the first months and years. In trying to write out these parallels, though, I’m also struck by how little I can possibly know of what the next stage in this journey will be. Here we go.