07/05/2011 11:37 am ET | Updated Sep 04, 2011

Dear Diary

Dear Diary: this year has been one filled with ups and downs.

As does every year, this year began with fresh ambitions for school-wide achievement and the endless possibilities thereof. However, the year ended with a reminder of the realities of how hard the work of educating and preparing students for this world really is. Yet because of the many challenges that were confronted this year -- whether or not we found solutions or we continue to seek them -- I walk away from the school year more determined.

Each time we engage in a mission or job or challenge, we're often asked was there anything that we may have learned from that particular situation. Indeed this year I learned a lot. I learned a lot about my position, my passion and my purpose as an educator. I realized that there is no greater high than seeing a student's behavior after they've realize you taught them something they've internalized. I learned about the nature of people and the nature of bureaucracy. I learned about the nature of politics and how "so-called" policymakers think they know everything about teaching and learning... Like I said, I learned a lot of things this year.

But of all the lessons learned this year, one the most important ones that I learned is that no matter how hard you try, you cannot help everyone. That goes for students, teachers, administrators and parents; if folks don't want your help, regardless of how much they may need it or how much you want to give it, they are incapable of receiving it. Once I realized that, I began to wonder what I should do in that case. As a teacher, it is my job to help children by teaching them well. As a teacher, it is a job to model good teaching to my peers, collaborate with them and discuss the serious issues that can hinder our best work from being done. As a teacher, it is my job to help parents keep their children accountable. But what happens when kids don't want to learn, teachers and parents no longer care or administrators seem either incompetent or incapable?

Thankfully, I got my answer over the course of the year as I learned another very important lesson --to remain consistent by staying in my lane. This year, so many crazy things happened; resignations, firings, expulsions, new hires, conflicts (you know, the normal stuff), but I realized that as long as I stayed consistent by doing my job, the instability experienced by the kids was counteracted by my behavior. I am not sure if people realize, but kids crave stability, consistency and structure. They don't always get it, but they recognize when they've received it and they'll return to it because that stability and structure is not only comforting to them, but it breeds their growth as students and as people. As I "stayed in my lane," I grew a reputation as a person who came to work each day with the students in mind. As one of my teachers once told me, "the only person's behavior you can control is your own."

I cannot control the mind of a parent who has given up on their child, an educator who has given up on the school system or a child who has given up on themselves, but what I can control is my own mind; and my mind is made up to help those in need, encourage those with low morale and try establishing an atmosphere that I'd like my child to be educated in.
With all of that said, I look forward to the next year and the many challenges that await me and my colleagues. The tests and hardships of my job have helped to define my mission in life. I was reminded of that mission as I gave handshakes and hugs to my kids last week; to usher students from youth to adulthood. At this stage in my career, it's as a teacher. I realize that I may not be able to usher all students from youth to adulthood, because unfortunately I cannot help everyone, no matter how hard I try. However, if I can remain consistent via doing my job as a teacher, someone will be helped. I guess the final lesson for me this year wasn't either of those, but rather that my students aren't the only ones being taught.