Most Kids Don’t Care About Us

I’ve been reflecting on why I do this stuff. I really dislike how little money I have in my bank account. But I probably need to blame myself not my profession for this. Market forces are powerful and incontrovertible. I should have seen this coming.

If I think about how many former students have reached out through Facebook or other means years after they left my classroom, that number is pretty small. Maybe 10 total in the 15 years I’ve been in schools? Each time they do, it’s so heartwarming and fulfilling that I get teary-eyed, but it’s still objectively rare.

So it’s important for me to recognize that I will only leave wisps of an impression in the minds and hearts of almost all of the kids I’m now interacting with.

What’s left then? Once my ego is out of the way and I admit to myself that they won’t care who I am later on, I guess it’s the “daily shovel work,” as Gregg Levoy describes in his overlooked gem of a book Callings.

But I see a lot of teachers all caught up in the drama of the students, passionately breaking down who said what to who in the hallway while eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge. Yikes. Ugh. Not sure how to interpret that. It makes me think they’re about as emotionally mature as the kids in the hallways.

But I can’t blame them as much as I want to. I used to be this exact same kind of teacher back in my 20’s. It mattered too much to me what they thought of my inner life, and perhaps as a result, I cared too much about theirs.

I guess I can blame the ones who are well past their 20’s still doing this, but where will that get me? Watering seeds of judgment in me rather than equanimity, something I’ve sought for far too long.

I’m finding that with that ego gratification need gone all I have left is a consistent, mature distance from my students that lacks no warmth. I still care just as deeply, but I can do things I didn’t used to be able to, like call out the girls for the same disruptive behaviors as the boys, and be sternly disappointed in the class group without sounding exasperated.

I like this new me in the classroom. Thanks Maturity. It took a while. I’ve got gray hair at my temples now, but whatever. At least you came around eventually.


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