The first quarter of my 37th year as an educator is officially at its end. There is always an overwhelming feeling of fatigue at this time of the year and a welcome sense of relief in knowing that there is a bit of a respite before heading into the holiday-laden second quarter.

This year, I feel more exhausted than ever before.

I love my school kids and their families. Some days though, I am so tired and wake up wondering how much longer I will stay in the classroom. Some days I feel like I am barely getting through to the kids. Some days I remind my colleagues that I am retired (yet returned to the classroom) and tease that I am going to the parking lot and driving far away.

Teaching is hard work, and it is so much more taxing than it was when I first started years ago. Certainly, I’m older than I was in the eighties, but the system has changed – considerably so – over the past three and a half decades. The system has been standardized so rigidly that, in some cases, the fun has been completely sucked out of it.

Sadly, the most important ingredients – the children – have been relegated to the back of the shelf to make way for all of the teacher scripts and data binders.

But I am resilient. Tired, but resilient. Teaching is what I want to be doing. Teaching is what I need to be doing.

So, I am determined to look for a spark every day…a spark that will light my way back to the front of the room the next day. Some days that spark is buried under a lot of rubble.

But there is always a spark. I just have to look closely for it.

During our last evening of fall parent-teacher conferences, Mateo’s mother met with me. Hers was one of my last appointments. She looked as exhausted as I felt. I welcomed her to the table.

Mateo is truly one of my favorite kids. Sometimes squirrely but never rude. Always happy, polite, helpful. Always smiling. Always putting forth one hundred percent.

Mateo’s sister, Maria, was there as well. She was one of my favorite kids two years ago. Both are excellent writers – a characteristic that bodes well with this writing teacher/author.

I started the conference by telling their mom that I was very grateful for her kids. I thanked her for raising them right. She beamed and introduced me to her youngest son, Manny.

“I hope Manny gets to have you for his teacher when he gets to seventh grade,” she said.

“What grade is he in now,” I inquired.


I sighed and then thought for a few moments.

Four years. I’m not getting any younger…I am so tired…I thought I was retired!

Four. More. Years.

I looked at Mateo and Maria. They were sitting quietly, smiling. I felt a surge of energy and sat up a little straighter in my chair. I grinned.

Today’s spark. Two of them!

I turned back to their mom and said, “You know, I hope I get to be Manny’s teacher too.”

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2019.

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