I Cannot Succeed, but I Must Not Fail: A Teacher’s Reality
Teaching is not a choice. It's a responsibility. We don't pick our kids, and for the most part, they don't pick us. They come to us as they are. They come ready. They come ahead. And they come behind. They come happy. They come angry. And they come sad. They come motivated. They come apathetic. And they come defeated. They come from whole homes. They come from partial homes. And they come from broken homes. They come from wealth. They come from poverty. They come sated. They come hungry. They come from success. They come from failure. They come connected. They come alone. They come as they are.
We don't get to choose who's on the team. But we do get to choose how we treat those who end up on our roster. In that there is choice. In that lies our responsibility. We have to meet them. All of them.
And while there perhaps exists some inspiration in the novelty of our grave responsibility, there also exists some guilt in the weight of our great burden. Can't meet all of them. Haven't met all of them. After a score of years, my 'success' is riddled with holes of failure, cracks through which I have let kids slide. And for that there is no reconciliation. I have failed kids. I could not be all for each. And I carry that. I wear that around my shoulders.
But I tarry not in self-admonition or pity, I carry it as a reminder of my being's weakness, that I may find the strength each day to meet my kids. Hard to accept that I cannot succeed, but harder to deny that I must not fail.
And so I try. Every day. Every day a battle between cannot succeed and must not fail. Most days I am lucky. Cannot succeed fails, and must not fail succeeds. And, thus, I continue. One day at a time. One kid at a time. All I can do.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.