My mother-in-law has pancreatic cancer. The outlook is pretty grim. My in-laws are looking to move out of their apartment into an assisted living home for the all too brief remainder of their days together.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They were supposed to live out the remainder of their days in ease and leisure, rewarded for a life of hard work and good values, quietly enjoying each other’s company someplace warm. Instead, life had other plans, and nothing ever really settled down for them.
It’s tempting to see life as a competition to get everything in order before you die. You will lie on your death bed with no debt, happy children, and having read the entire works of Shakespeare. However, the reality is this probably won’t happen. Life will always remain unfinished, and we can’t be upset about all the things we had left to do.
It’s tempting to see teaching this way as well. We think would be a great teacher if we only had better students. Or if the students we had would do their homework. Or if everyone would appreciate the hard work we put in every day. Then finally we could be the teacher we were meant to be. (This is the kind of thinking where we tell ourselves we will be happy when we are thin, or we get our dream job, or meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.)
Be there’s a danger in thinking this way- we lose the opportunity to be satisfied with the job that we’re doing right now and experience the joys in our job no matter whether or not things are going as planned. We can decide to be happy with our job and our life instead of waiting for something to come along and fix it.
We’ll never perfect teaching. There’s a temptation to think that our last year teaching will be our greatest year, the one in which we can leave feeling like we finally got it right. This might be the case, but it might not be. So I’ve decided to live with the imperfection and search for something everyday that can make me joyful.