In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens opens with one of the most memorable lines of all time, writing “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”  As a teacher, I’d agree with that sentiment. Being an educator is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most difficult.

There are days where I cry from sheer frustration, tossing and turning all night, the anxiety about a situation at school causing peace and sleep to both elude me. Those days are the worst of times, and they make me question myself.

Am I really cut out for this?

How can I be better?

Why do I take things so personally?

But on the good days, the best of times, when things are clicking, I feel perfectly aligned and fulfilled and confident. In the best of times, a classroom full of teenagers can be the most energizing force in the world, propelling me to plan unique projects, introduce new literature, and teach current events that will make a tangible difference in the lives of my students, in the future of our province and country, and in the direction our world may follow.

What I do matters.

This is why I’m here.

I am right where I am supposed to be.

Teaching is complicated. It’s an immense honor and privilege to be trusted with people’s children, but that honor and privilege comes with an overwhelming responsibility to do the absolute best job possible. Over the past five years, as I’ve plunged head first into this profession and experienced a myriad of failures and successes, trials and tribulations – the best of times and the worst of times.

These experiences have forever deepened my appreciation for my own teachers. In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, I would like to say thank you to the teachers who guided me. Thank you for inspiring me to follow your path into education.

To Ms. Sandra Busch,

Thank you for pushing me to read more and better books, and for introducing me to one of my favorite authors, Will Ferguson, when I borrowed “How to Be a Canadian” from your classroom library. Your class sparked my passion for exploring and teaching literature, and it fanned those flames throughout junior high.

To Mrs. Terry Smith,

Thank you for being clear and direct with your expectations, extremely organized, and concentrated on preparing us for the world beyond the walls of our high school. Your class showed me the importance of planning, preparation, and purpose to have a successful career in education.

To Mrs. Katja Davidson,

Thank you for encouraging me to engage with literature, and analyze it, using not just my head, but also my heart. Thank you for teaching me how to really write, and for preparing me for English classes at the college and university level. The culture and quality of your classroom is what I seek to emulate each day that I teach English 30.

To Professor Sally Jones,

Thank you for providing encouragement to a nervous first year college student. I still have the paper I wrote for you in EN 1132 about the Thomas King novel “Medicine River.”  As a final comment you wrote, “I certainly hope you are considering a future in some kind of literary career!” That sentence gave me the confidence to pursue English as my major.

Thank you, teachers. What you do matters. Even when you feel like it’s the worst of times, I promise, you are making a difference.

Kirsten Clark is a high school English and Social Studies teacher, a reader, a runner, a writer, a lover of good food, and most importantly, a new mom. Kirsten lives in Vermilion, Alberta with her husband, and since welcoming a baby boy last December, she is embracing the new adventure of motherhood with all of its ups and downs. She occasionally blogs at, and posts regularly on Instagram @kirstenlanae. Find her on Twitter also.

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