Twenty some students are sitting at their desks, hunched over their work as they synthesize a video we just watched, an article they have read, and a writing checklist to complete a written portion of a unit exam.
I have my own writing tasks waiting for me, for my part-time (could-be full-time?) gig.
I am writing at this moment (which should be apparent).
As I near graduation, I find myself crunching numbers to see what income will be required to pay off my student loans in 5 years or less. I find myself looking at homes for sale in specific Des Moines neighborhoods. I find myself searching AEA websites for open teaching positions. I find myself wondering what my future will and should precisely look like. After all, just because I will have my teaching degree and certificate, doesn’t mean that I have to (or even will be hired to) teach. That’s a reality I feel is healthy to accept.
So in this meantime of wondering, I dream. I pray. I try not to plan too much.
When I reflect on what my ideal future would be, it always comes down to two things: writing and students.
Writing has always come so easily to me, so fulfilling and yet draining to me…it’s me. I am a writer. I don’t need external validation to know that the written word is intertwined with my identity. That being said, my words or ways with them have always had an audience. (Ironically, this blog – this heartpouring of my me-ness, boasts the tiniest of audiences.) Anyway, I know that it is something I good at, and as such it seems selfish and wasteful to NOT pursue it with every chance I get. I have spent most of my professional writing career writing for others. I’ve written articles for newspapers and websites. I’ve written thousands of item descriptions. I wrote TV commercial scripts for years. I’ve written newsletters. I’ve written web content for clients as varied as a British chiropractor to a bicycle brand to a local bar and venue. If words were pieces of me, I’d be global, and I’d be spread thin. That’s all very exciting, yet if I were to pursue writing, it wouldn’t be on those terms anymore. It couldn’t. That’s done. Although my own voice and thoughts rarely get lauds to equal my content writing, that is the kind of writing that could hold a future for me. Finishing my works of fiction, continuing my lifestyle/life lessons writing. Venturing into more developed and precise essays. That could be a life.
My students. I have never had my own classroom of students in the traditional sense. Student teaching is the closest I’ve been, but it’s much the same as when I was a substitute. The students of this district are important to me. The students of this nation are. I feel very passionate about the public school system. Whether you want to write it off as a black and white issue, broken or blessed, is not really that important to me. As an insider, I know that the public school system is here and it needs hard-working, dedicated, and caring people. Students need teachers who care enough about them to give them equal opportunities to succeed and to fail academically. They need teachers who are intentional in their craft; passionate about their content area and about meaningful learning. Our students need teachers who see and value them as individuals. I have felt convicted since my first semester as a substitute teacher that my work here is orphan care. Many of these students may not be orphans in the most literal sense, but many are neglected, forgotten, and otherwise uncared for. They receive their nourishment at school. Their meals, yes, but also the guidance and modeling about what it means to exist and participate in our world. Public school is where they learn how they will survive. Our students need teachers who will equip them with the right tools and compass to navigate life. They need hope, encouragement, and discipline.
How can I ignore the compelling force to write?
How can I ignore the needs of our orphans?
These rhetorical questions reverberate in my head and in my heart often these days. I don’t have to decide this today. Or tomorrow. In fact, some of it may be decided for me. I will apply for teaching jobs. I will always write, regardless of how much and for what compensation. For now, my future remains untitled.