While at the zoo, my friend said off-handedly that I do so many things and do them all well. I appreciate the compliment, especially from someone that I love and admire so much. And I want to be clear that I am not beating myself up. But I am feeling a bit run down. I have so much to be grateful for, and I know that, and I am grateful. But...and there shouldn't be a but... but I am feeling a bit discouraged lately.
I know that much of it stems from parent teacher conferences last week. I had all but one parent come, which is great. Except that of course, the parent who didn't come is a parent I really need to speak with. That parent's child has missed 30/110 days of school. He's struggling. He's so far behind. And it is going to hurt his future if he doesn't catch up...but he's not going to with such poor attendance. (And he has NO medical problems...the parents just don't make him go to school.) He does not read as well as my own Gabby who is in kindergarten. It's discouraging. My job is often heart breaking. Knowing that many of these children face such difficult circumstances, and knowing that there IS hope for their future, but that it is going to be an uphill battle for them. And in the great scheme of things, my power to change their lives is so very limited.
In addition, during parent teacher conferences, I did two parent interviews. In one of the interviews, I learned that the mom and dad grew up in rural Mexico and mom only finished first grade. She is illiterate. Dad has some literacy in Spanish, but very little in English; he only finished 6th grade. I meet these parents and I work so hard with their children, and most of them sincerely want what is best for their kids, but they don't have the skills or ability to provide it for them. Most do the best they can. But learning their stories is both humbling and heart wrenching.
My job is HARD, wonderful, fun, exhausting, overwhelming, rewarding, and discouraging. It is both wonderful, because I know that what I do is important. I would have a very, very hard time leaving my children to go to work if I didn't feel like I was doing something important. (And I already have a hard time and feel plenty of guilt.) Something I feel is an important part of my mission here on Earth. But it is exhausting, because I don't ever leave it...except in the summer (for the most part.) I bring work home with me virtually every night, and even if I don't bring work home, I think about it regularly. I rarely stop thinking about my students and what I could try to maybe reach them better. I agonize over those who aren't making progress...both because of the current testing frenzy and because of my genuine concern for them. I feel so tired lately...physically tired, sometimes, but more emotionally tired. I feel like I am giving as much as I can, but it just doesn't feel like enough lately. I've considered switching schools, though I am not sure if it will help. I've considered even switching districts or looking into charter schools or private schools, though I would take a big pay cut. I am unsure. I know that there are harder jobs out there. I don't have to work 70 hours a week. I have the summer off. I recognize there are benefits to my job, and I recognize that I am fortunate to have a job...and to have a job that I often love. But yet, I am feeling very burned out right now. More than I think I have ever felt.
In addition, I worry about my own children. Nothing terrible is wrong with them. Over all, they are doing well. But Gabby does not love school. She had a hard time adjusting at the beginning of the year, and it has gotten better. But she does not like Spanish. She has told me a few times that her teacher thinks she is the dumbest one in the Spanish class. I am certain that her teacher hasn't said that, but I am heartbroken that is how Gabby feels. She is a shy kiddo, and her teacher has pulled me aside a few times to tell me to practice this or that with Gabby at home because she doesn't know ____. Nearly every time, I have assured the teacher I will practice with her at home, but that she does know ____. I think she is so nervous and shy that she isn't showing her Spanish teacher what she knows. She shines in her English class, and loves her English teacher, thankfully. But I am really questioning whether this dual immersion program is best for her. We feel like it is important for our children to be bilingual for many reasons, but particularly since most of Alfredo's family speak limited or no English. But I also want her to feel successful and happy.
Michelle and Ella have been very happy at their school--other than the long drive. (But we try to fill it with fun chats and listening to great books on CD. So as long as the weather isn't bad, it usually is mostly pleasant.) But math is not Michelle's strong area, and I suspect that having 50% of her math in Spanish all along hasn't helped. I have the skills to work with her at home, but not much time. I mean, I absolutely make sure that homework is completed. But by the time we are home from school/work, eat dinner, do homework and reading, and practice music, it is time to get ready for bed most nights. So I am considering what to do for next year. She will attend the local junior high, so I am considering sending her to the local elementary next year. There are significant pros and cons to either choice.
I know that as I do my best, I am blessed. I also know that like Jenkin Llloyd Jones said (and President Hinckley quoted), "Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are often dull than otherwise. (Not mine!! Sometimes dull would be nice. :)) Life is just like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
I know that compared to most, my challenges are small. I know that I won't feel this way forever. I know that I am so very blessed. And all of that helps. But does not completely get rid of the concern and worry nor the feeling that I could be doing so much better as a mom and a teacher. I know I am blessed more than I deserve and I know that when I forget myself and get busy serving, I do feel lighter and better. I try hard not to let myself feel this way for long, and usually when I do the things I need to do to take care of myself and do what matters most, I don't feel like this at all. So now, I am going to go put myself to bed and hope that I am feeling all better soon.