Rising above the storm

This article is aimed towards anyone who has worked hard towards a particular goal, but who has encountered resistance and obstacles along the way. It’s about empowerment. It’s about taking ownership for those things in our direct control, while simultaneously allowing ourselves to let go of those things outside of our control. This is where true peace and happiness is found. If this describes you in any way, I hope this finds its way in front of you. I hope it empowers you to keep going and keep fighting the good fight.

I hope you never give up.

I had an amazing year this year. It was probably the year where I have grown the most as a teacher, mentor and human. This is due to a variety of factors. Some came from within, and some were external. Sometimes, the stars just align and everything goes smoothly. For the most part, the entire year was like that for me. It’s not always this way, though. You have to dig through a lot of coal to find a diamond.

As a teacher, you have a lot of time in the summer to reflect upon your past year. You think about the things you did, the lessons you taught, and the encounters you had, whether they were with parents, students, or fellow teachers/staff members. You savor and smile about the beautiful moments, the moments that keep you getting up in the morning. You also pause and reflect (and sometimes cringe) at the moments that were not so spectacular. Sadly, those moments are the ones that often times occupy your thoughts.

In my 10 years in the classroom, I have come to realize that teaching is like a round of golf. Unless you are a professional golfer, most of us focus on making solid contact, putting the shot where we want, and creating a fluid and repeatable stroke. If we’re lucky, we have one stoke each match that is almost perfect. You feel it in your hands, you feel the soft and beautiful contact on the club head, and the ball explodes off the ground and travels exactly where you planned. When it happens, it’s a beautiful thing, and it motivates you to keep playing. You tell yourself, “If only I could hit the ball like that every shot, I would be amazing at this game!”

Teaching is the same way.

Sometimes you lose more than you win. Sometimes, despite all your preparation, all your planning, and all your best intentions, things will not play out the way you intended. If you’re lucky, those “perfect shot” moments come more often than not, but sometimes, the universe has other plans. This can be a result of many different factors, oftentimes occurring simultaneously. While this can be overwhelming, and at times, crippling, what I have discovered is that your ability to fight through those moments and keep faith and hope will allow you to weather the storm.

I have had moments in my career as a teacher where I doubted my path in life. I’ve had students that frustrated me to the point where I didn’t want to come back. I’ve had department chairs, bosses and administrators emotionally and psychologically beat me so hard that I was ready to crumble, and give up my career as a teacher. I have had extreme moments of doubt.

But the sun always comes out after a storm.

Sometimes, you have periods in your life like I had this year. Moments of empowerment, where everything seems to click and the stars seem to align. Moments of clarity, both personally as well as professionally. There are few things more empowering than when you consistently receive positive feedback from your students, their parents and your bosses. It strengthens and supports your self-esteem, and more importantly, it helps motivate you and drive you to continue, and to keep growing and improving. The positive reinforcement becomes validation that you’re doing the right things, and you’re in the right career. When I can make a positive impact on someone’s life, then I know I’ve done it right. That’s everything. It’s why I get up in the morning at 5am. It’s why I work the long hours. It’s why I went into this field.

Everything in life will rot and fall away, and the only thing left will be the impressions we have made on others in this world. I have had people who were placed in positions of leadership have me on the verge of tears, but what I have come to discover is that I’m not there to please them. I have to work with them, yes, and to a degree, we all must follow the chain of command in any career or profession we’ve chosen. That’s just reality. But you will never change the mind of a weak or ineffectual leader. That’s not in our control. All we can control is what we do and say, and the decisions we make on a daily basis. Despite huge obstacles in my life, I chose to keep going, and as a result, I just finished maybe the best year of my life.

I hope you’re reading this. And I hope it empowers you. I hope it makes you see and realize that it will get better for you as well, and you will weather this storm. You are on the verge of doing amazing things in this world, and don’t ever let those wrapped up in their own pettiness and selfish agendas derail you.

The sun will come out for you.

-Z

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