To say I learned a lot during my first year of public school teaching (at the tender age of 53), would be a striking understatement. Lessons learned were critical, intense and full-bodied. Some days I felt like I had done everything just short of cartwheels out the door to get my students to listen to me… about what things are important and lasting, and those that are useless (and often dangerous) diversions.
I learned a lot of lessons. But the one that is by far the most important, the most far-reaching, the unquestionably most effective, truth beyond truth, is this: Never quit caring. EVER. Never quit caring about your kids, never quit caring about your teachers, never quit caring about your relationships, never quit caring about your subjects…NEVER QUIT CARING. Ceasing to care, ceasing to, as I say to my kids “give a rat’s pair of whiskers” is the one and only real way to fail.
Some days my students and I fought tooth and nail. We loved and hated each other, often feeling stuck, like families, in a forced symbiosis. But what we found was life-altering. If we hung in there, both myself and my students, if we hung in there and kept caring…about what it was we wanted and needed…that skin in the game led to success every time. Maybe not a 4.0 or a Teacher of the Year (or even Of the Minute), but success was ours as long as we cared to keep searching for it.
Kids know when you care. And teachers know when you care. And friends and family know when you care. Never quit caring about who and what is important to you. And that is, most assuredly, the Secret of Life.