“You won’t fall—I’m holding on to you.”

There are times when a single moment contains the whole world. This morning, walking my daughter to kindergarten, I picked up my two-year old son to navigate a treacherous sheet of ice leading to the school door. He clung to me like a koala and said, “Don’t worry, Daddy. You won’t fall—I’m holding on to you.” That moment compressed twelve years of teaching for me.

There are times when a single moment contains the whole world.

This morning, walking my daughter to kindergarten, I picked up my two-year old son to navigate a treacherous sheet of ice leading to the school door. He clung to me like a koala and said, “Don’t worry, Daddy. You won’t fall—I’m holding on to you.”

That moment compressed twelve years of teaching for me.

We think we’re carrying our students, but there are times when they carry us. One of the things I find hardest to explain to people outside our profession is the combination of exhaustion and renewal that teaching brings. A day of teaching can weary you to the bone, but a single moment—a kindergartner’s breakthrough, a 3rd grader’s utterly hilarious joke—can cast off months of fatigue and frustration in the time it takes to laugh.

At a time when teaching is often a three-year career, we keep asking the question, “Why do so many teachers leave?” It’s a good question.

But we also have to ask, “Why do so many teachers stay?” The connection with our students is at the heart of the answer. They need us, but we need them, too.

At the end of Winter’s Bone, Ree’s younger siblings ask, “Are you wantin’ to leave us?” She answers, “Naw. I’d be lost without the weight of you two on my back.”

Teaching and parenthood both feel like a burden at times—there’s no denying the weight. But there come times when our students cling to us not to seek our support and protection, but to provide theirs to us.

There can be a bone-deep joy in carrying that kind of burden. It’s a welcome weight.

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