Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

There are times when I really just want to quit.  And so today, I did.  Not what you are thinking – I didn’t walk away from my job.  I actually took a really big step toward it.  As you may know, I have really been struggling with my class this year for a variety of reasons – all of which wear me down daily.  I have a bad habit of saying ‘yes’ more than I should.  I have the time to do more than more and I like to be able to lighten the load for my fellow staff members.  But I am really, really overextended and getting so little support and appreciation for just how much I offer.  So tonight, I said ‘no’.

In an effort to regain some balance and to get myself back on the track that I love, I will only say ‘yes’ to what directly involves me with my students.  I am not going to help out on building wide planning committees, or take sub time away from my class to view another school’s program.  I am not going to double book meetings on days when my homework club meets.  I am not going to take time away from this year’s students to plan for next year’s.

I am going to prioritize my 29 kids over everything else for these last months of school.  I am going to be wholly present for the tutoring that I do every Wednesday.  I am going to be wholly available to support my fellow teachers during my planning time when my students are struggling to be successful in specials.  I am going to be wholly present to plan for the substitute who will be working next door for the next three weeks as we shuffle staff to meet the needs of a special student.  I am going to be wholly present for my students.

And I am going to tell myself that it is ok, sometimes, to say ‘no’.

Tuesday February 14th, sort of

hearts-9Tuesday was Valentine’s Day.  We changed the tradition at our school and asked that students NOT bring candy this year.  (The saying around town is that our principal killed Valentine’s Day!)  We wanted the focus to be on friendship, kindness, and finding the good in others – not on sugar.

It went off pretty well.  There were parents who didn’t participate, either because they still don’t read the newsletters or because they were just going to do it their way anyway.  But for the most part it was a pretty candy free day.  Yes, things can change for the better.

So instead of sweetarts galore, I have the coolest word search puzzle that includes all of the names of the students in our class, a paper airplane kit, several glow rings, and hardly any trash on the floor at the end of the day.

That part of the day was a success.  But the dark cloud over my head has still not lifted as we struggle to meet the needs of the neediest.  I was reminded yesterday that school can be the safest place for some of our students.  When there is chaos at home, struggles and worries that are beyond their years, school should be the calm, predictable, and always loving place our students can come to rest.  I am glad that yesterday wasn’t as amped up as celebrations in the past.  But my heart still aches for those who deserve an un-amped up home.

Chaos

My guiding light the past few days has been the phrase, “Chaos is a good thing.”  I have been fighting it hard in my classroom lately, trying to eradicate the chaos instead of embracing it.  I embraced it this weekend and shifted my mindset to be okay with it.  As soon as I did that, I found that I was seeking my own solutions instead of quick fixes.  And the past two days have been much better.  There is still plenty of chaos but it isn’t negative chaos.  I am greeting it with open arms and then trying to work with it.  A far more effective method than greeting it with every tactic and trick in the book trying desperately to keep it away.

I had a beautiful 20 minutes at the end of the day playing with legos with a little friend.  With our hands busy making, he talked easily about himself.  He loves horses. He gets to help his dad each weekend at a friend’s barn where they have about 40 horses.   They will have more coming from Wyoming soon.  Together, they clean the horses’ hooves so they don’t get an infection.  He sometimes gets to ride one.  But you can only ride the ones who have been broken.  Those are my words, not his.  He struggled to find the words in English for what he did that makes him so happy as I filled in the gaps for him.  As I struggled to fit those darn tiny pieces together, pretending to create something intentional, all I was really doing was listening to him talk, just him. For twenty minutes.  What a gift.

Again and again,  I am grateful for these moments when I can truly connect with my students.   They are just so, so hard to find, those moments.  But maybe embracing the chaos will allow me a few more minutes to meet my kiddos on their turf.  I really miss their turf.  Their wonderfully and sometimes maddening chaotic turf.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

I wasn’t very nice today.  Twice within the same hour I found myself using the same phrase to someone else: “This is not my job.”

It’s in my nature to do more than I am asked, to help out when it is needed, to lend a hand, and sometimes to do more than others are comfortable with me doing.  So, I was curious today as to why I was so frustrated with others not doing part while I was picking up the slack.  Normally, that works for me.

Perhaps it is because normally those extra steps, the going of the extra mile, the offering up my services is done because I have time and room in my life to give a little more and make things easier for others.  And maybe what made me crack today is that my time isn’t being used in a way that feels satisfying at the end of the day.  I am putting so much into a really tough situation, way above and beyond what any teacher should be expected to do.  And in doing so, it takes me away from the things that fill my soul so that I do have something to give back.  My cup runneth dry these days from.  I need some recognition instead of assumption.

Sorry for my biting words.  I’ll be better tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Marched

Women's March on Denver

I  read a talk given in Berlin on November 10 given by Zadie Smith on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.  She has always been one of my favorite writers.  When thinking about why I joined in my first ever march, I went back to her words.  “I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over the long stretch, is that there is no perfectibility in human affairs.”

“… I maintain that people who believe in fundamental and irreversible changes in human nature are themselves ahistorical and naive. If novelists know anything it’s that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. They are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. At this moment, all over the world—and most recently in America—the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. Here in Germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. But there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. Those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along.”

I sang loud and clear with 100,000 other voices on Saturday.  My tune might be a little rusty but I am ready to sing like never before as I reach for the finer tune.  I sing for those 29 beautiful faces I see each morning who deserve a role model who believes in the good in people, who seeks peace, who embodies empathy, and who listens to ALL of the people he leads.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I heard someone just tonight recite that familiar saying, “The days are long but the years short.”  I am feeling just that way right now.  My days have been so very long and now weeks and weeks have gone by in a flash.

My long days have kept me from doing much writing.  I think I have been avoiding it as I really don’t want to be negative when I reflect about my teaching.  There hasn’t been much positive or much to celebrate these past weeks.  As my cohort said today, “I just want to teach – actually teach something to kids who are available to learn.”  We have both been struggling to keep our heads above water while we provide for some kiddos who just can’t learn given where they are in their own precious lives right now.  And while we pour all we can into these few, the many are coasting along, socializing wonderfully but missing out.  We both feel like we haven’t been able to tap into their intrinsic desire to learn so the days often end with a rather unsatisfied sigh.

And so we are going to try again.  We are going to take yet another tack, try another game plan, change the routine.  Because that is what we do.  We keep trying until we find what works.  My current bag of tricks has run dry.  But as I tell my kiddos, when you hit the wall and don’t know what to do next, that is just an opportunity to grow.  This year has provided me so many opportunities for just that.  And they just keep coming.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thank you.  Two simple words that can carry so much weight and yet when they are missing, they can leave such a hole.  I saw both sides this weekend.

My husband and I spent an evening and morning hosting a relative and babysitting her daughter.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with this little one and love that we are asked to step in from time to time to help out.  We made grilled cheese together, with a 4 year old, played with the puppy, and read bedtime stories while mom got a free night out with friends.  We made breakfast for all the next morning and shared great conversation over The New York Times and even had time for some babydoll play and walk with the dogs around the block.  After they left, I asked my husband if any Thank Yous were doled out.  Not to him, and not to me.  It left us both feeling a little empty and slightly more hesitant to step up next time.

And then late Sunday evening, a parent of a former student emailed my teacher partner and me.  Their child had just been recognized on the honor roll in middle school.  He struggled in 5th grade while needing extra support but made up his mind early that year that he didn’t want the support.  He worked so hard all year, especially with his organization and independence in homework.  The email thanked us, and all the teachers who worked with their child, for working with their son to give him the confidence to believe in his abilities.  It left both of us feeling full and anxious to get back to school to do what we enjoy.

Two little words.

Slice of Life, Tuesday, November 8, 2016

 

I choose to spend each day with a group of young people in an effort to promote tolerance, compromise, a work ethic based on personal growth, and a climate of acceptance.  I do this because I think I might be able to make a difference somehow.  I do this because I believe that giving some smiles, laughs, side hugs and pats on the back will somehow seep in to lives of some young people.  I am not out for personal gain, for personal profit, and certainly not for financial security – no one in education is.  I try to believe that people when people are good and kind to one another that it benefits everyone.  I try to believe that even though we have differences, when we take care with each other, respect each other, and are generally kind to each other that the world can become a better place.  But tonight, I am feeling defeated.  How long can a human swim upstream before giving in to the downward flow?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lost to October

Weeks gone missing.

Pushed away by the struggle to love and accept

Missing in the daily doubts and defeats

Neglected for the fury of masqueraded cries for help

Adrift in a shorter tipping point of patience

Squandered in piles of data

Surrounded yet satisfied by hours of warm exchanges with parents

Caught in the strong winds of a day of service and songs yelled in unison

Squeezed between heart wrenching returns and memories of letting go

Embraced by family celebrating a life called back

Found again in sweet refrain from kittens, ghouls, and blueberry pies shared with neighbors and friends.