Next week, I will meet 120 strangers. They won’t remain strangers for long. I’ll soon learn their names (okay, maybe “soon” isn’t the right word…this seems to take longer and longer every year!). I’ll discover their likes and dislikes, their celebrity crushes (please no Bieber this year!) and their favorite clothing brands. I’ll hear about their summers, their siblings, their pets and their families. I’ll figure out who needs to be pushed and who needs extra TLC.
These kids will be in my life for 180 days. Most of them, I will never see again after May. These are relationships with an expiration date. Before I ever meet them, I know when the connection will end.
There is an urgency to teaching. I have around 160 hours (once you subtract out testing days) with each of these students. In that time, I have to teach them the 8th grade math as well as remediate any gaps from prior years. I have to improve their reading and writing abilities. I have to help them mature and grow as students and as people. I have to form relationships, as that is the single best way to motivate a middle schooler. I seek to teach them the importance of perseverance and of failure. I want to inspire them to make healthy choices and to become role models themselves. I want to be remembered, not as their favorite teacher, but as the one that pushed them and helped them realize their potential.
Every moment has an importance with that expiration date on the horizon.
On the flip side, when they are driving me crazy (shocking, I know, but middle schoolers can be trying at times!), I remember that it is temporary. The child who constantly argues or interrupts will be gone from my room before I know it.
The expiration date minimizes the impact of those negative moments.
When I entered my first marriage, I saw it as a relationship with no expiration date. We were young and it seemed like our time together would stretch on forever. Moments passed without importance because we were sure there would be many more on the horizon. Only when the marriage unexpectedly spoiled, did I realize that there were wasted times that slipped through.
With my soon to be second marriage, I know that it has an end. I hope that the end is far in the future, but there is no way to be certain. We’re older and more aware of the end of life and of the illnesses that can strike out of nowhere. I am more aware that marriages can falter even without intent. I no longer count on those untold years in some imagined future, as they may never materialize.
I treat my relationship now as though it has an expiration date. I savor each wonderful moment and don’t fixate on the frustrating ones. I know I have a limited time and I want to make the most of it. Only in this case, I’m not worried about teaching math concepts:)
And for today, making the most of it means taking a family hike before the craziness of a new school year, a move and a wedding. I’m not at the precipice anymore; I’m taking the plunge!