… leaves Nika a little stiff, as you can see. Here I am, holding the paper I have been writing all week.

The good news is that I am putting it down, at least for Friday night (and maybe for Saturday, too–hmmm). My research professor evaluated my first draft of writing this morning (thumbs up!) and my thesis advisor will evaluate it on Sunday. I am working at a good pace. There is no need to run myself like I am in the Kentucky Derby.

Oh, it is tempting to respond that way … to make myself go so hard all the time and to be unforgiving with my expectations of myself. People think teachers have it easy. They think we enjoy these leisurely summer vacations and clock out at 3:00 the rest of the year. But they don’t factor in the anguish. They have no idea how much we worry that we might not be making a difference at all. They don’t know how much we worry about being a better teacher next year, worry about the way we gave a student a snappy answer when we were frustrated, worry about the 15 yr. old who is pregnant on the front row of sophomore English, worry about the 19 yr. old who is stoned on the back row of sophomore English, worry about the angry parent email we just received, worry about finding a spare moment during the day to go to the restroom. They don’t know that we will sit up suddenly in the dead of night with a lovely lesson idea, fearful that if we do not write it down immediately it might dissipate like the dream it came from.

Two nights ago, I sat straight up at 3 AM as if a fire alarm were going off and thought, “I spelled ‘souvenirs’ wrong!!'” I could not go back to sleep. I have charcoal gray luggage under my eyes because I have been doing that all week. Various thoughts. Various worries.

To tell you the truth, were it not for the incredible reward of knowing students and teachers who daily contribute to making life beautiful for me, I would quit teaching tomorrow (even with this silly degree I am going to be paying off for the rest of my life). As far as professions go, being a teacher is exhausting beyond words. I want an easier job.

The only way I will be able to last is if I learn to take care of myself. It is not as if I need to MAKE myself stop and go have fun (I find that a little too easy to do, actually!), but some of the anguish always follows me.


I not only have to make myself stop go, go, going so hard, but also stop being so unforgiving of myself. Because being hard and unforgiving is the definition of … a statue. Someone with a heart of stone is not effective in any profession.

A dear family friend, Wayne Hemingway, experienced a very special day of teaching college algebra Thursday. It was his 90th birthday. He has been teaching for 66 years. I cannot imagine. I just finished 6. It looks like some people know how to take care of kids AND themselves at the same time … so I know it can be done. But it may take me until I’m 90 to figure out how.

See the article in the Houston Chronicle:

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