10,000 hours. That’s how long it takes for a job to become an expertise, but the trouble is I wanted to be an expert on day one. I walked into school ready to create the perfect classroom. My students were going to be diligent and kind, and they were sure as hell going to get the highest scores in 1st grade. I was confident and hopeful. I wrote it down—didn’t that make it destiny?

As September came to a close, I was clearly aware of my incompetence as an educator. How do I teach phonics? How do I adhere to this schedule? How do I document? How did my evaluation score that low? It was impossible to check off everything on my to-do list, and I had never felt so inept in my entire life. I harbored a lot of anger. There was not (and is not) enough time or administrative assistance to make me the teacher that I need to be for my students, and it took me a couple of months (and a couple of cry sessions behind the cafeteria) to put on my big girl panties and get over it.

I’m not here to be the very best teacher for myself. I’m here to be the very best teacher for my students. Of course, I’m going to put my heart and soul into my work, but even that won’t be the work of an expert, and that’s okay. It’s going to take 10,000 hours.

So I wake up and remind myself that I have kids to love. I cannot allow my exhaustions and frustrations to restrain my passion for who I want them to be. Loving them unconditionally requires selflessness. Out of true love for them, I strive for their excellence—not my own.

For years to come, my students will remember me. Perhaps only a few will remember that I taught them how to read, but most will remember my love. They’ll remember our class meetings. They’ll remember those phone calls home when all I did was brag. They’ll remember my sweet notes. They’ll remember my happy tears. They’ll remember me, Ms. Berger, their 1st grade teacher, who taught them how to love themselves, their community, and the world. Loving them didn’t take 10,000 hours. It didn’t even take one.