Larry Efird: When you cannot teach another minute

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 20, 2016

(On a good day, I sometimes feel as if I could teach forever. But on the other days, teaching one minute more almost seems impossible. I wrote the following words on one of those “other days.”)

Another minute…

When I didn’t think I could teach another minute,

Thank you for the student who noticed I needed an understanding smile.

When I felt overwhelmed by ungraded papers and un-posted grades,

Thank you for the student who shared his life’s biggest struggle in an unvarnished essay.

When I believed my role as a teacher was unnecessary and irrelevant,

Thank you for the student who told me she wanted to become a writer.

When I doubted my ability to connect with teenagers any longer,

Thank you for the student who requested that I be her club’s advisor.

When I thought no one knew how much I cared,

Thank you for the senior who asked me to pray for his scholarship interview.

When I was too tired to deal with immaturity and apathy,

Thank you for the student who asked me who my favorite author is.

When I couldn’t face another meeting with an open mind,

Thank you for the strength found in a communal setting of my colleagues.

When I realize that aspirin and chiropractor visits don’t last forever,

Thank you for snow days and weekends.

When I hear political candidates espouse their ignorance about public education,

Thank you that I’m surrounded by people who know more than they do.

When I cannot look to retirement or an IRA for financial security,

Thank you that I can count on my students as a more stable investment.

When I know that teaching is “not what it used to be,”

Thank you that at least I know what it should be.

When I find myself teaching in my sleep,

Thank you that I know it is just a dream.

When I don’t understand how to interpret abstract test scores,

Thank you for the caring souls who understand me.

When I can’t seem to get my mind to a place of peace,

Thank you for a book of Celtic prayers and a can of Dr. Pepper.

When I say, “I am a teacher,”

Thank you that I don’t need to apologize.

When I can barely utter, “Help, Lord,”

Thank you for giving me another minute.

Larry Efird teaches at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.