Today I went to a party for our principal, who has been forced into early retirement by a diagnosis of ALS. People told stories about him and his 21 years of service to our school and our district, and through the whole experience, talking to his wife and kids, I thought about family.
Teaching is a fucking hard job. Every single day. (And yeah, even during the summers which we have "off" and which we earn every single minute of, thank you very much.) There's just no other way to say it, and I know students read this blog and I shouldn't swear, but I do sometimes, and that's that. But one thing that I never realized until today is how important teachers are to one another. I should have, it's completely obvious...but sometimes it's the really "in your face" things that are most easily missed.
My best friends are teachers. When I'm having a bad day or something is going wrong in my life, school and the people I work with can save me. And, when something bad happens we rally around each other in a completely unique way. It's also true that people who aren't in education just don't understand. It's not their fault, and it's not for lack of trying, but there's a bond that is established between people that coexist in a high school all day every day that can't be duplicated with non-school people.
Sometimes I back away from work, separate myself from it because I force myself to think "it's only a job." But the emotions that come into play every day...suicides, accidents, sexual assaults, drinking and arrests and weekend parties, grades, confrontation, attitude, life lessons...all of that binds us to our students and to each other. The people I work with are not just "people I work with." They are a family, my family, in a very real and true way. I reap the benefits of the community that our principal spent 21 years establishing.
So while I'm focusing on being thirty and not married and childless and blah blah blah, I need to not ignore the family I have, the people who show up every single day for the same reason I do.
There's more than one way to define a family.