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The GAP and the GAIN

"If you don't have a Kim Gameroz in your life, I suggest you get one."

These are the words that were spoken by one of my absolute favorite humans in the entire world. Not only is she one freaking amazing educator, but I am lucky enough to call her my best friend.

I've watched her become a wife, a mother, a first grade, a fifth grade, a kindergarten, and back to a first grade teacher. I've watched her feel deflated, inflated, inspired, rejected...and time and time again, do you know what she did? She PERSEVERED.

She is filled with passion, goodness, light, love, and the teaching skills that will literally knock your socks off. And it's not about teaching content. It's truly about the connections. The connections that this woman builds with her students and their families is like nothing you've ever seen. She creates magic in her classroom every single day, and believe me when I say that other people sure do notice.

But there is always something within her...within US...that makes us feel like we just haven't done ENOUGH. We're always striving for that next milestone. We're constantly telling ourselves that we'll finally feel like we've "done it" or "we've made it" WHEN....

When we're tenured.

When we become Team Lead.

When we finish our Master's Degree.

When our team wins the Robotics Tournament.

When we become Teacher of the Year.

When we get a Principal's Award.

When we get a District Award.

When my principal posts a picture of me on our school's Instagram account.

When we don't have to be observed every single year.

When...when...when...and IF.

And what happens to us WHEN we start living in the IF/WHEN???

I'll tell you what happens. We NEVER feel like we're doing ENOUGH... we're not good ENOUGH, and that there is always something MORE that we should be doing. And do you know what ends up happening? We feel burnt out.

I've felt that feeling...hell, I feel that feeling ALL THE TIME. But I refuse to live in the GAIN. I refuse to continue to look into the future and tell myself that I'll be happy, or I'll finally feel successful, or I'll know I've made it when...

Believe me, I will most definitely set goals. I will look into the future and find things that I want to accomplish and do, however, I will NOT define my self-worth, or my success, or the value of the work that I do on any of that what if or WHEN I bullshit. I will NOT burn out. And I honestly think that one of the reasons why our educators are feeling burnt out today is partly to do with just this. They're living in a world where we create this sense of pressure that we continue to put on ourselves. And it's an endless cycle of "you know you're doing a good job at your JOB when..."

I think I finally understand WHY we do this to ourselves too. Because as educators, you don't just GET raises. Your boss doesn't come into your classroom, see magic happening, and then call you into their office to tell you, "Hey, you're awesome. I'm giving you more money." There aren't any bonuses, or work dinners, or traveling...It's YOU, and your students, in that same one room each day. And there are behaviors, and craziness, and report cards, and emails, and assessments, and new things added to your plate all the time. And do you get compensated for it? Nope. Your entire paycheck is based on the NUMBER OF YEARS you've been teaching and HOW MUCH EDUCATION you've had.

And that is truly why I think AGEISM is such a "thing" in the education system. Yep. Ageism is a powerful, destructive, terrible thing. And let me tell you, it lives and breathes in those school hallways.

"I've been teaching for X amount of years."

That's literally one of the phrases that makes my skin crawl. Because I don't care how many years you've been teaching. Are you good at your job? Do kids like you? Do the parents want to be around you? Hell, are you having FUN with your students? When you're in a professional development meeting, are you sitting there talking to your colleagues or sitting on your computer doing other work...or are you actually engaged, listening, and learning something new that you can take back with you the next day?

Ok...I'm venting. And I'm venting because I've experienced this all too often. And this is truly why I believe that my coaching clients are special. They're special because some of them have been teaching for over 20 years. Some of them will retire in the near future. Some of them are new to teaching. Some have been teaching for a handful of years. And does it matter? Does it change the way we talk to each other, or treat each other? Does it change the way that I speak to them or how I coach them? NOPE. It doesn't change a thing. We're bison heading into that storm, looking ahead, and doing the best freaking job we can, with the students that we've been given, and we connect, share, collaborate, and learn from each other all year long.

We look into the future intentionally. We add on systems that will not only support our students, but they'll support US as well. And we set goals, and reflect on those goals, in micro doses so that we're consistently moving forward. We're gaining...boy, are we gaining, but there's an absence of WHEN and IF. And that is the difference.

So instead of constantly living in the future, I want you to focus on looking back at the gap. Look back at all the things that you've accomplished. Look at where you started. Look at where you came from. Think back to the person you were 2, 5, 10 years ago. And then make a list of all the things you've done. I'm telling you, when you sit there, really sit there, and start to make that list, you will blow yourself away with all the incredible things that you've done.

In the words of my dear friend, "I'm a completely different person now." And she sure is.

And you know what else? YOU are too.

Instead of making a list of all the things that you MUST do, or things that you think will make you feel fulfilled IF or WHEN...instead of looking into what you want to GAIN...I want you to look back at the GAP. Seriously. Sit there and write down everything that you've ALREADY accomplished in your life. Focus on looking behind and seeing where you came from instead of looking ahead and seeing what you haven't done yet. I promise you, you'll be amazed by just how incredible YOU ALREADY ARE.

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Kim Gameroz is a change agent for schools and districts who seek to revolutionize classrooms by taking on a systematic approach to teaching social and emotional skills.

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