The very thing that makes education so challenging makes it so rewarding. You never complete a project, close a sale, or finalize a build. Teaching is never ending. That might sound ominous, but it is the constant struggle that forces educators to grow, making each victory a little sweeter…even if there is no time to stop and enjoy it.
In this scene from 1989’s Parenthood, Jason Robards (Frank) is giving his son, Steve Martin (Gil), insight about when you finish being a parent. The message is clear, “It never, never ends.”
Frank is the father of four grown children, each with their own children. Frank’s youngest son, Tom Hulce (Larry), is a constant disappointment. Despite his failures, Frank is perpetually backing Larry’s ill-planned ideas, much to the confusion of oldest son, Gil. Contrary to Larry, Gil is a successful family man, but is struggling with his oldest son, Jasen Fisher (Kevin).
In one of the final scenes of the movie, Frank sheds light on why he continues to support Larry. It is not that he believes Larry’s get rich schemes will work, it is because he knows that no matter how old Larry gets, he needs his father in his corner. There is no symbolic bird leaving the nest. The work of a parent is endless.
Every year schools set goals: reduce suspensions, increase growth scores, decrease staff turnover, etc. At the end of the year, the school uses data to chart which goals were successful and which ones continue to need attention. Even accomplished goals are never complete. Just because suspensions are reduced does not mean there are not ways to continue to increase seat time. Improved growth scores does not necessarily mean all subgroups made growth. Having less staff leave is great, but there are always way to provide a more supportive environment for the educators in the building.
Sometimes the strategies used to accomplish goals one year do not work the next year. Every students is different, every teacher is different, and every year is different. This seems extremely disheartening. But it is not. It is what makes education far more rewarding than typical 9-5 jobs. Educators are forced to constantly problem solve, troubleshoot, and brainstorm. And they cannot do it on their own. It takes the collaboration of many to attend to these problems.
As a teacher, this is true on an even smaller scale. Tuesday might have gone off without a hitch, but Wednesday was a total nightmare. You never really figure it out. Constant tweaking and planning and differentiating is a daily occurrence. Those modifications are not happening in isolation, they are happening on teams, in departments, and in committees.
The irreplaceable teachers are the ones who continuously reinvent themselves. Through reading, professional development, or meaningful conversation with colleagues, they develop new strategies to create relationships with students, increase engagement, and spark a love of learning in their students. Great teachers understand that the formula for success is ever changing. The only way to approach it is through self-improvement.
“There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball, and do your touchdown dance.” And that is okay, because the rewards you get as an educator for bettering yourself and positively impacting students far outweigh the trivial accolades you might get in another profession.