I see you struggling to make ends meet. You look at how much is coming in and how much is going out, and you don’t know how you’re going to do it. Again. You wonder if this is a never-ending cycle. Will it always be this hard? Will you make it to retirement? Do you even want to make it to retirement, or should you run away and find the quickest job you can find just so you don’t have to argue with another child about whether or not you actually witnessed him talking when he was supposed to be copying down his vocabulary? I mean, after you’ve facilitated that “teachable moment” for the thousandth time, almost anything is preferable.

And maybe you’re even paying for someone to watch your kids so you can take care of and teach the ones entrusted to you by the State Department of Education. And it’s hard for you to leave those sweet baby faces behind so you can drive to school, baby snot on your dress, cold coffee in your console, and a bag overflowing with papers you’ve dragged home with you every night this week but have not yet found the will or the time to grade. It’s hard for you to leave the ones you love for the ones who, quite frankly, challenge you in ways you feel ill-equipped to handle.

I see you writing those lessons plans, trying to make those objectives meaningful to both your students and your administrators. I see you checking boxes, sending notes home to remind your students’ parents to send in field trip money while you are unable to go with your own child on their field trip. I see you documenting how you are helping the students who are struggling, and I watch you scratch your head as you try to work through exactly how you’re going to get that kid who sits in the back to pass your class. I know you worry about whether Hudson has enough to eat on the weekends or if Katie is actually taking her medicine every day. I see how you get frustrated and worried when Joshua tells you his dad kicked him out of the house, and that’s why he doesn’t have his glasses anymore, and sorry to ask, but can he please sit closer to the board?

I see you showing up early for bus duty, shielding your eyes from the sun, thankful for your sunglasses this morning because you had to fight your children on everything from what outfit they were wearing to convincing them to brush their teeth, and you yelled at them more than you ever do, and the mom guilt is strong and the tears are welling up.

I see you picking up broken pencils and scraps of discarded assignments and tossing them into the trash. I see you wiping down your board and sweeping the floor at the end of each day. I see you make your impossible daily to-do list before you turn off the lights and finally lock the door. Your bag, still full of assignments in need of grading, will likely finally gain your attention tonight because, alas, your work is never finished.

I often pass you in the hallway. I’m going to make my copies for the day, and you are on your way back from making yours. Our eyes meet, and we are both tired. And, Good Lord, it’s only early October. We exchange pleasantries, but beneath our tired smiles, what I really want to say is this:

I’ve got you, sister.

Because I also see your eyes sparkle when you tell me that Allison has finally stopped blurting out inappropriate things and making farm noises in class, all because you got her to admit the reason she does it is because she doesn’t understand the material. I see you working extra hard, always off-the-clock, planning engaging lessons for your English students who love The Outsiders so much they watched the movie at home over the weekend and couldn’t wait to talk about it with you on Monday.

I see you diverting money away from your own needs and wants to your students’—to make sure they have journals, books, paper, and pencils, to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed.

I see you, giving of yourself every single day, so you can make other lives better, richer, and more meaningful.

That, my friend, is immeasurable passion.

You will make it.

Your bank account will have more lack than you care for this summer, and you will plop down on the couch on Friday night and not move until Sunday, and you might have a few extra glasses of wine or Hershey’s Kisses or bubble baths, but. You. Will. Make. it.

And you will be better for it. And so will they. Your kids and your students.

Ashley Storey

Ashley is middle school English teacher residing in south Alabama. She is married to her wonderful husband, George, and is a mom to four children (including a set of twins under the age of one). When she is not busy teaching, wiping baby snot off of her dress, or chugging coffee, you can often find her locked away with her a good book and her journal.