When Life Gets Difficult, Remember
By, Madison Wardlaw
YOUR FAVORITE STEM Teacher from Philly (or, maybe the only one you know) is back! Back in January, I took you all on a walk through a typical day for me and everything in between. The good, the bad, and the challenging. let me tell you: that was a mild day!
"At the end of a frustrating day, I always feel rewarded because I continued and persevered."
AS A teacher, I’ve had days far more chaotic and treacherous. Dealing with these days and the emotions they elicit is hard, and sometimes, it’s even harder to keep going. However, I know I must continue on and teach. At the end of the day, it’s what I was born in this world to do.
WHILE NONE of my direct family members are teachers, the entire state of Mississippi helped raise me. The fight of revolutionaries like Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, and Medgar Evers inspired me. The presence of Black educators like Tonya Griffin and Jonathon Newsom allowed me to envision myself as an educator. With these influences, I knew I was always destined to teach Black children, and now I’m so glad I find myself in a position where I can finally do that.
EVEN THOUGH I spend my days doing what I love, this work is still hard and emotionally taxing. On those days where teaching finds itself synonymous with terror for me, I remember these things:
Getting through today will be so much more rewarding than giving up.
I would be dishonest if I did not admit that my job is challenging. Not only is the intellectual work laborious, it often puts a strain on my emotions. Whenever I walk through the doors of my school, my mind is racing to make sure I’m fully prepared for the day's lesson. Sometimes, I’m thrown for a loop when de-escalating students. Other times, the actions and attitudes of other educators make me feel like I hit a brick wall when they unravel the confidence of my students.
What I’ve learned is that it goes a long way to check in with myself. When I’m most irritable, frustrated, or hurt, I really do my best to check in and acknowledge those feelings, but also work to recenter myself. For most days like this, I follow the same routine. I come home, turn on my Spotify Chill Mix, journal to my heart's content, work through a few Sun Salutations, and make (or, buy) myself a good meal. Sometimes, I feel like giving up, but I know I would be disappointed in myself if I did. Not only are my students depending on me, but so are their parents.
At the end of a frustrating day, I always feel rewarded because I continued and persevered.
"In my class we dance, we tell jokes, we laugh, and sometimes we even share a meal together."
Be kind and treat yourself!
To balance out the days’ woes, I often celebrate the little victories. In my class we dance, we tell jokes, we laugh, and sometimes we even share a meal together. In these moments, not only am I treating myself but I’m allowing my students to indulge as well. School is often so work-focused and centered. I have to focus on higher test scores, increased literacy rates, and rigorous, on-level learning environments.
My students have to focus on making it through all of these classroom environments, emotionally and intellectually for eight hours a day. But in these moments of achievement, we can briefly ignore all that is required of us to celebrate new knowledge and understanding, repaired relationships, and the end of the school year.
Go forth and do great things. Someone needs you today.
When I was growing up, everyday before school, my mom would say, “Go forth and do great things.” It really set the tone for me and to this day, my mom still tells me this. It’s a humble reminder to put my best foot forward. Now, it’s even more important than ever when dealing with my students.
Madison Wardlaw is an educator, the ILAC Mentorship Director and graduate of Chemistry and Educational Studies from Grinnell College, class of 2020.