I have been thinking a lot lately about the word margin. Most of us probably think of the blank space around the edges of a page when we hear that word. While my recent thoughts on that word have not really been about paper, they do have a lot to do with space. This school year has already been filled with challenges that I had not anticipated. I knew that being in a new building, teaching a new subject with a new teaching partner and more kids in my home room than I have ever had would be an adjustment, but these circumstances have all been accompanied by things that didn’t even know to expect. On top of going back to school, I am in the last month of my Principal Internship and my Master’s program. This has added hours of work and assignments to my work days. And on top of all of that, I am raising three girls (my older two are off the payroll) – two of them teenagers, managing a household and attempting to be a good wife. I point all of this out not to garner pity or to even really complain, but rather to illustrate the absolute lack of margin in my life right now. There is no blank space. And that lack of margin is taking its toll on me.
Margin is defined as “a spare amount or measure…” For me I am feeling that there is just no spare amount of time in my days. Not only that, I am feeling that there is no spare amount of ME left for anything right now. My constant busyness fills my days, but leaves me feeling empty. I know that I have to make room for those things that fill my soul and light a fire in me. I am tired. Bone tired and soul weary.
Even as I type this though, I feel a little spark. I am remembering the little things that bring me joy. Expressing myself through words. Sitting in the stillness of the morning. Hot coffee. Though they may be small things, they are in my margin. I need to cling to them and find room for them as I navigate this busy season. I encourage you to find some space in your life to do the things that make your heart happy. Find your margin.
This school year has definitely been different than any other in my career. Many days I feel like I am a first year teacher again. I feel like I am having to create new ways to do things nearly every day. Most days I feel overwhelmed and completely flustered. I am exhausted before the day even starts. I spend early morning hours in my classroom trying to find new ways to teach – to reach all of my kiddos. I spend all day behind a mask hoping that they can see the smile they bring to my face. I study their eyes – searching for a glimmer of understanding. I miss seeing the smiles that I know are there, but are masked. Creating engaging, cooperative lessons has become a difficult task. Sharing learning and ideas from three feet apart somehow just isn’t the same.
I come home at night, carrying a load that is much heavier than the stacks of papers in my bag. Did I even speak to her? Was he okay today or did he seem sad? If I could have only spent more time reading with them. Finding the balance between work and home is even more burdensome this year than ever before. As I lay my head on the pillow (or the couch, sometimes even my desk) my thoughts drift to tomorrow’s challenges. Do I have the energy for one more day of this environment? How am I going to reach them? And keep them safe? And listen? And show them how much I truly care – from three feet away?
But here’s the thing…I LOVE what I do – even when I’m doing it in the middle of a pandemic. I love my kids (my students carry the title of my kids). I love that they are so resilient and they handle every day of this crazy school year like seasoned veterans. They are still kids. They still laugh and play and have fun. They bring me so much joy when they draw me pictures or write me notes (even when the spelling is a little off). Yes, it has been a really tough, deflating year trying to make things feel normal when they are anything but. The pride I feel when I see how amazingly my kiddos are navigating all of the chaos – well, it makes every minute worth it.
I might be overwhelmed and allow myself to complain about the day to day details of the “job,” but the reality is, I love my “job.” I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to pour into these little lives each day. And the best thing is that I always get so much more from them that I give. My burdens may feel heavy at times, but my heart is always full. Teaching is not my “job.” Teaching is my passion.