I stood next to a table, watching my colleague, my friend, my writing compatriot laugh and rap along with a room full of kids. I soaked in that moment and reminded myself, “This. This is why you show up every day.”

I can get all kinds of ruffled up with righteous indignation about any number of injustices I am privy to on a daily basis. Sometimes, those injustices make me wonder if I wouldn’t be better off, happier, someplace else. Or, as I asked my Pop Culture class last week, “Have you ever had a day that made you question every single life choice?” Most of them smiled and nodded. I sighed, then had them each write me an essay on whether sampling in the music industry is creativity or theft.

If I looked hard enough, every day I could bombard myself with reasons to stop teaching. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even have to look hard at all. But no matter what career I chose, I imagine I would reach a point where injustices and my inability to do anything about them would threaten to take over my mindset.

As I watched a room full of kids–student journalists–laugh and rap and stuff their faces full of unhealthy food, I felt lighter. It reminded me to refocus on the things I can control, like teaching proper comma use or how to make ethical decisions–because I’ve taught all of those kids those things. And knowing how to use commas and make ethical decisions just might make them better people.

It’s so easy to lose sight of the “why.” For me, when I get to that point, I need to remember to take a breath, spend some time looking at what my students have accomplished, and acknowledge that those accomplishments don’t always produce external recognition. Sometimes the accomplishment is the kid who finally makes deadline, or the kid who finally takes a perfect photo, or the kid who finally writes a sentence without a helping verb.

Small victories, but victories nonetheless; victories that deserve my acknowledgement, especially at those times when the injustices blind me to the reason I keep showing up: the kids.

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