Updated: Apr 8, 2019
Ten minutes before noon I'm standing stoically in a carpeted hallway surrounded by an ever-rising sea of somebody's children. The noise, a cacophony of voices, had become my all-too familiar mid-day soundtrack. I began using my voice to direct tardy students out of the bursting halls and into classrooms. As usual a group of young people had formed into what I could only describe as a clog in our hallway to classroom pipeline.
"Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed."
They clearly had no respect for my generously dispersed authority, and I maintained zero tolerance for their perceived unwillingness to adhere to school procedure. I interrupted their meeting. Most of them sauntered along. One young man did not. Instead, he began to express his right to conversation and choice, by unleashing the most beautifully profane tirade my Christian ears had ever heard. He enveloped his reasoning inside of bookend four-letter words. F-bombs. I'm talking about curse words so skillfully strung together he could make both sailors and bartenders blush.
My hand, now thinking for itself, had clamped down into a fist. My eyes began searching feverishly for the most appropriate landing spot for said fist.
Then suddenly I had the strangest stream of thought; it occurred to me that instead of assaulting the young gentleman I should be thankful.
You read that right. Thankful. The young scholar wasn't trying to kill me (or get me to kill him). Instead, ignorantly though not innocently, he was giving me life. He had become the tool of purpose. He had become a part of a process designed to transport me to destiny.
Understand this: If you are not doing the most difficult thing in your life, you're probably not growing. For me, teaching High School in an under served community was the most terrifying part of my professional life. Not only did I feel unqualified; I was, inexperienced. Every day I accepted the fact that if the stress didn't kill me, my students would. Yet every day I went to work. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
It transformed me in every way. It made me tougher. It made me a better reader, writer, and thinker. It forced me to become proficient at building and maintaining relationships and credibility.
But this isn't about how I transformed from, a crappy teacher into a less crappy teacher. This is about you. This is about how the thing that you are so sure is trying to kill you is really trying to give you life.
I get it. Seriously, I understand how it feels to emotionally suffocate. Life doesn't always ask you what route you would like to take towards destiny. Personally, I would love to take the lottery route. More often we are handed circumstances that are overwhelming. However, it is usually in those situations that we are forced to either grow or “die”. The more hardship and suffering tries to "kill" us, the more we adapt. The more we do the thing that we couldn't do; the more we evolve.
This process of becoming is the most unselfish of undertakings. It's in our growth that we are shaped into someone useful to society. The more I endured and grew, the stronger my impact became on others. As I grew, my students grew. As I strengthened, the more my colleagues fed on that strength.
What matters in life, is what we leave, for and in others. I could see the worth of my suffering in how it sprouted into success for others.
We learn to master our emotions. Don't suppress them. You're not a robot. Feel all emotions, and use them. Cry as you climb. Fight the urge to quit. I’ve learned that it is only in my persistence that I’ve developed the necessary skills to survive the next level of life. Quitting in the past caused me to forfeit the opportunity to grow. It’s true that the enemies of growth are comfort and complacency.
When we think about it, we realize that we are a monument of successes. We have already won some battles. You have already lived through some trauma.
I celebrate you today. Join me as I rejoice. Look at all the things that have tried to kill us, and be thankful.
A teacher’s reflection,
Sean M. Brown
A writer, educator, and graduate student in the MBA program at Delta State University. Sean has been published in Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and Firefly kisses, a poetry book by performance poet Honey Sanaa. He has published one book to date, Poems from the 3rd Heaven.