“I started my acting class yesterday!” The light outside the library windows, still imbued with spring morning color, shone through onto the carpet. As I stood across from my excited colleague, I observed similar light emanating from her eyes. Her son, a middle school boy, had recently auditioned for and earned a lead role in a theatrical production. A few weeks back, my colleague shared this impressive news with me. In telling me, she literally exuded excitement for him, so pleased that he’d discovered what was for him, a new passion. Shortly after that, I learned she had enrolled herself in an acting class. “Just to learn what this acting thing is all about,” she reported.
When she told me this week the class had begun, I immediately thought back to my own theater experience. While working as an eager new teacher at my very first middle school, I had once offered a Thursday theater improv class for interested students. Every Thursday morning, all teachers on my staff taught an “interest group,” a little course typically outside academics for which they had a passion and an expertise. Teachers offered such mini-courses as knitting, archery, creative writing, origami, basketball. I remember this fondly as a time when there seemed to be more time to get to know students, to play a little bit sometimes, to breathe.
As a specialist no longer working in my own classroom, I now see teachers struggling to breathe, struggling to maintain, struggling to balance the many pressures exerted on them. Teaching is not what it once was, we all know that. We feel that. Nor should it be, I recognize that, too. But I am hopeful that the pendulum in our profession will swing back, at least a little.
Chatting with my colleague in the library this week helped me to feel heartened for her. The brain loves novelty. And I could see new sparks of inspiration electrifying her in ways I don’t know that I had ever seen before. My hope for teachers, for all of us really, is that we can find those little avenues in life that not only sustain us, but light us up; those paths of inspiration that help us come to school rejuvenated and more of who we are. Because it’s important we stay in this profession. It is. This work matters.
And we’ve got to find ways to breathe.