Caffeine. It’s every teacher’s best friend. In my case, it is also my nemesis. You see, while most teachers get their caffeine fix from their antioxidant-rich morning cup of coffee, I get mine from an afternoon pick-me-up of Coca-Cola. My name is Mrs. L. And I’m a coke-aholic.
You wanna know what’s even worse? Like most addicts, I try to convince myself that I’m not really a Coke-aholic. I could stop if I wanted to. Didn’t I quit for 9 months while I was pregnant? I tell myself. I even pretend like I don’t have a problem by not keeping any Coke in the house. If it’s not in the house, I won’t drink it, right? Wrong. What do I do instead? I drive through a drive thru and pick some up.
A couple of months ago I was incredulous when I saw on the McDonald’s menu that a small, medium, AND large Coke each cost the same amount: $1! What? I thought. How can this be? This doesn’t make any sense. I ordered a medium. I paid $1 plus tax. The next day I ordered a large. I paid $1 plus tax. I was beside myself giddy-happy. Never mind the fact that I could pay less if I just stopped my neuroticism, bought some at the grocery store and brought it home. I thought I was getting the deal of the century. I’m lovin’ it, I thought.
This love affair went on for several weeks. I became acquainted with the McDonald’s staff. I knew which McDonald’s was most likely to have the best ice-to-soda ratio. I knew which staff member did the best job of wiping any soda drippings off the side of the cup. I was a very chipper, caffeinated Mrs. L.
But then one day it happened. I gleefully drove up to the drive thru speaker.
As the winter break approaches, I find myself reflecting back on my first year of teaching. I taught in a low-income seventh grade math and science class and the first few months of teaching were difficult, to say the least. At times I even wondered if I would make it to Christmas. It seemed a monumental task. The week before break, I felt proud that I had made it as far as I had, elated to be getting a two-week break, and optimistic that I would begin the new semester with new ideas and a rejuvenated spirit. With these upbeat thoughts in mind, I remember that without realizing it, I began humming Christmas songs before the bell rang at the beginning of the last day before break. Several of my students entered the classroom early to escape the cold, and they smiled at me. One of them said, “Ms. L., you are so happy! You are humming! We’ve never seen you this happy.” Frankly, I was surprised at myself. After months of frustration, feelings of defeat, and more than few tears, I finally believed that I would make it to the end of the school year. With a fresh attitude and a bit more confidence, this day was a turning point for me. Though there were plenty of difficult days ahead throughout the rest of the school year, I think my students were surprised to see a new, happy side of me, rather than a harried, agitated version of me. It made all the difference.
Perhaps you are a new teacher experiencing something like my first year of teaching. Or maybe you are an experienced teacher with a particularly challenging class. On the other hand, maybe you are a seasoned teacher with a great class. No matter your circumstances, congratulations for making it to Winter Break. As they say, “It’s all downhill from here!”
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