The Fortune of Failure and Firsts

Tricia Koechig
5th Grade Teacher

Vincent Van Gogh is considered one of the most influential painters of all time. However, few know of his life outside of his famous painting, "A Starry Night." Van Gogh's parents gave birth to a still born son just a year prior to having Vincent. The Van Gogh's had not fully healed from the trauma of losing a child when Vincent came along. Vincent Van Gogh left his family at age 15 to work for his uncle due to financial difficulties in his family. A few years later, Van Gogh began work at an art gallery in London, where he experienced much heartache and was eventually fired. Van Gogh led a short life of depression and mental sickness. Tragically, when Van Gogh was only 37 years old, he shot himself in the chest and died a few days later.

Van Gogh's life parallels that of teachers all across the world. Teachers work over 40 hours a week and sometimes it feels as though we haven't gotten anywhere! The students who still chew on their pencils after weeks and weeks of reminding them not to, the endless stacks of papers to grade, the schedule changes, the judgment from other teachers, the unexpected moments, and the countless other scenarios that tend to drag us down. The continual drain suppresses our love of teaching and our cup runs empty. As a first year teacher, I have felt the burden of failures weigh down my life to the point of sheer exhaustion and a desire to quit. "This is not what I thought it would be like," plays over and over in my head. "I thought I was smarter than this," challenges my fragile thinking as I realize I have so much more to learn. Like Van Gogh, I have felt the need to have a "mental health" day every so often.

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A glimmer of beauty resonates through failure and firsts. Sadly, Van Gogh never lived to see his paintings reach worldwide fame. Similarly, many teachers do not live to see the full fruits of their labors. The fortune of failure and firsts is the unknown of the future. Some teachers do give up and commit educational suicide for themselves and their students. Though these teachers may not literally quit their job of teaching, they have quit their love of educating, helping, and giving to the next generation. Contrastingly, there are teachers who trust in the beauty of the future. These teachers realize that the first year teaching and the failures of teaching propel us to the impending future of the world as we know it. Van Gogh is acclaimed as one of the greatest painters of all time, but he didn't see the big picture when he dismally ended his life. Teachers need encouragement. First year teachers especially need encouragement. Most importantly, our students need encouragement. We need to realize the bigger picture and the beauty of the failure and the first time to carry us through the starry night to a brighter future…

Tricia Koechig
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