Through the Mist, Through the Woods, Screw your Courage to the Sticking Place

I have this vivid memory of walking to school one day when I was somewhere around 7 years old. My walk to school took us down a short wooded path and across the athletic field to the back of the school. On this particular day, the fog was hung with what we in New England refer to as “pea soup thick fog.” It looked terrifying to walk into. It was dense, had no visibility, and was seemingly impenetrable. It was the stuff of fairy tales; it suggested that dangers or mischief might lurk within. My sisters and I steeled ourselves, banded together, and powered through. As we stepped in, it only seemed thicker. It was white, hazy, and felt damp on our skin. I looked forward assuming that I was in an interminable forest of fog.

But then, about 100 steps in, I looked behind me. Everything behind us looked clear. It was empty, the landscape sharply visible and hugged only by wisps of fog that merely whispered of the specter we had just walked through.

I was mystified. How id it look clear?! Was the fog suddenly lifting? I looked ahead again and nothing was budging. It wasn’t that it was going away. It was that once you were pushing through it, the parts you had gone through became invisible.

I know logically that it was some kind of optical illusion, some trick of the light that made it only look invisible. But, 7 year old me saw magic. And 7 year old me took comfort. By toughing out the path, we were being rewarded by having the scariness dissipate.

*******************************

The next month of my life is going to be brutal. When I think of what I have to do, my chest tightens.

I left work at 7:00 today. I will be at school or attending classes each night this week and will never be home before 7 pm on a single night this week.

I have to enter all of my assessment data for the semester into the system by May 30.

I have 3 major projects to do, each involving tedious data collection and research and writing and formatting.

I have to actively record student thinking and then find time to thoughtfully and gracefully put it up on a display that makes it accessible to children and edifying to adults.

I have Girl Scouts every other Monday.

I have class every other Thursday.

I have a meeting til 6:00 pm every Wednesday.

I have a wedding on May 24th and a wedding on May 31st

I have no free weekends until late June.

 

I have to manage all of my behavior interventions and think proactively to meet the specific needs of ¼ of my class so that I can prevent behaviors that make me reactive.

I have to be thoughtful.

I have to be engaged.

I want to be fun.

I want to be kind.

I have to not be exhausted.

I have to be patient.

I have to come up with great plans.

I want to finish the year with a bang.

I have to run an endless list of assessments

I have to make sure my kids are actually taking something out of this year.

I want to have fun.

I want the year not to just run out on me.

 

I have to be (physically, emotionally, mentally) present at school.

I have to work every weeknight for the next month.

I want to be (physically, emotionally, mentally) present at the weddings.

I want to have fun at the weddings without having my head on stress.

I want to have fun at the weddings without time running by.

 

Suddenly, my clothes feel too tight around my chest. My heart is pounding. My head is spinning.

 

How. How? HOW!? How am I going to make it?

*******************************

I am heartened. Slightly heartened to think that just 4 weeks ago when I wrote, I saw everything as insurmountable. And since then, I’ve knocked things off my list. Since then my kids have learned. Since then, I’ve managed to breathe and have fun amid the chaos.

Maybe I will be ok.

Maybe I’m back on the foggy field. Maybe the more I do, the easier the field behind me will look. Maybe everything looks worse before you set out to do it.

If I’m honest, that attitude feels too optimistic right now. But if I don’t believe it, I think I will drown in my own maelstrom of panic.

So for now, I choose to think, to believe, to hope, that soon I will be standing on the far side of the field proud and triumphant, looking back on the ghosts of the fog.

 

Back to Reality

Spring break was everything I needed it to be.

It was relaxing. It was restorative. It was fun. It was focused.

I went on adventures with visiting family.

I binge watched tv.

I got a massage.

I got my nails done.

I cooked amazing meals.

I visited my family in Connecticut.

I visited my boyfriend’s family.

I reconnected with a dear friend.

I had dinner with another dear friend.

I even sucked it up and got some work done.

Now I’m up. A little underslept. A lot over-allergied. Am I ready?

I have plans. I’m going in a bit early to set up. I know what I want to do.

But Am I ready?

Am I ready for 20 kids?

Am I ready for behavior plans?

Am I ready to start Spring assessments?

There is so much to do before this year is out.

I have tons of fantasies about all the cool things I will teach the kids and all the fun things we will do together and all the skills I will get them up to speed on. And I know they can’t all fit.

I have to get report cards done.

I have to keep the worms fed.

I have to make sure the chicks hatch.

I have to help with hiring committees.

I have four MAJOR projects to get through before I 100% get my certification.

I have three major evaluations to ace.

I have three weddings, three bachelorettes, and four rounds of eagerly-awaited visitors coming up.

I have my school’s fundraising gala to go to.

I have Girl Scouts to help out with.

I have to sleep and eat.

I am terrified about the next 8 weeks.

I know I can do it. I know summer will come one way or another and I will get everything done and I will be relieved yet sad when the year is over.

But facing it is absolutely daunting.

I guess, just like my father always says, I have no choice but to take it a day at a time. Maybe even a step at a time.

So step one: time to conquer breakfast.

 

Is it Scary to Create?

I’ve been struggling with a question for a few days now. And I don’t think there’s an answer. Still, it is simply fascinating to ruminate on.

Last week, my school hosted a Professional Development event run by Project Zero. Teachers all over my school presented their work and introduced other educators to the type of project work that they do with children. I helped run an activity in the art room, where adults were given 25 minutes and open access to art materials to make a magic wand.
At the end, we debriefed. I facilitated in a protocol in which each participant was allotted 30 seconds to speak. In between each 30 seconds of speaking, the group observed 30 seconds of silence. It gave great space for thinking, listening, and reflection.

One of the many reflections that I heard repeated was that each adult felt a pang of nervousness or fear or shyness when approaching the project.

This got me thinking about how the act of creating is a vulnerable one.

It took me almost all year to get up the courage to make a blog because it made me feel vulnerable to share my work.

And that feeling accompanies any kind of creation. Creating means sharing a piece of yourself. It means putting your ideas into action. It leaves you open and exposed.

I think this is something we constantly forget when teaching children. We as teachers- especially in Early Childhood- are asking kids to create all the time. We’re asking them to take risks, try new things, learn to master new skills, and to do so all while also putting out work and art and buildings and ideas.

I left this discussion thinking to myself “How can I make sure to be more actively aware of this condition and sensitive to the kids’ needs as they experience it?”

We then adjourned back to the whole group and met back up with all the other workshops. The leader, Jim Reese, invited us to consider 3 things: Connections we made, Things we learned, and questions with which we were wrestling.

I shared my new realization with an Autism professional from my school. Her being firmly tied to the strategies room on a different floor means that she’s one of the rare individuals with whom I never get to interact. I turned out to be very glad to have sat with her.

She accepted my idea, supported it, said, “That’s really profound.”

And then she turned me on my head. She said, “What if that vulnerability is a learned behavior? Think about it. Maybe kids are so free and creative and uninhibited because they haven’t learned to fear the vulnerability that comes with sharing your creativity. So what if the challenge isn’t to be sensitive to the fears they’re feeling, but to make sure our language doesn’t incite self-consciousness and encourage anxiety?”

I agreed with her and connected it to my newfound comfort with worms after 28 years of fearing creepy crawlies.

I think that no matter what, you can’t take away the fact that sharing of yourself creatively means leaving yourself wide open.

I think what is up for debate is whether that openness necessarily equates to vulnerability. Does it really leave you open, exposed, and in danger of feeling embarrassed/wrong/inadequate? Or does it simply open you up to possibility? Does all the fear simply come from our self-imposed needs to please/be right/do it the best? And if the danger attached to being creative comes from inside our heads, how do we get rid of it, and how do we keep ourselves from raising kids to think that way?

I don’t know. I’m still debating.

What do you think?

 

 

April Fooled Myself

I have every intention to keep up blogging along with Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Stories on Tuesdays.

I had every intention to write tonight. I was going to write about April Fool’s Day and its impact on my room.

 

I laid down on the couch, glasses on, computer open.

I caught up on 6 work emails.

I turned my head to the tv to watch Chopped and tune out for a minute while I formed my words.

 

 
And Then I fell asleep with my lap top on my lap.

 

 

It seems that today, without even working through the meat of reflecting, blogging helped me to see what I most need: rest.

Thus, I’ve decided to share simply what I’m working with and will hope and intend to put up something heartier next week.

For now, this tuckered teacher is turning in.

Up on the Roof

Today was finally sunny. Today was finally warm. Today the breeze was invigorating. Today, I could finally use my roof deck.

I moved into a new house with my boyfriend and some new roommates in September. Our house has a roof deck. And we got to use it about 1 1/2 times before it got cold.

But today as I bopped my way home, I  knew I was headed straight for the roof.

I went up, sat down, called my mom, and ate some Doritos.

Once I was off the phone with my mom, I put my phone down. And I just sat there. Disconnected. Just being.

I just sat there on a rooftop in the middle of Washington, DC.

The magic of an ear that’s lived the city life for five years is that it has a magical revisionist power.

I tuned out the helicopters and sirens.  I tuned out voice noise. I listened to the wind in the trees. And soon, I was at the beach. My brain converted the traffic hum to crashing waves. It interpreted all bird sounds as seagull calls.

I listened to the ebb and flow, took in the sun, drank the breeze.

And I was reset, rejuvenated, ready to take on all my evening responsibilities.

I look forward to establishing this escape as my daily wind down. I think it’s going to to great things for me.

……………………………………………..

On a separate note…

I did it! I started a blog 32 days ago and wrote once a day for 31 days. I am confident I cannot keep up a daily habit from here on out. But this has been thought-provoking, cathartic, energizing, and a helpful reflective tool. I would like to keep writing.

I would like to grow as a writer.

I would like to turn away from writing about my experience as a teacher and turn toward sharing my students’ thoughts and my reflections on them.

I would like to see where it goes.

Only time will tell!

 

Feeling like a Princess

So today is my actual birthday. I was celebrated and showered by my class Friday. I got my hair cut and nails done yesterday and had a party with my friends last night. I spent today eating delicious food and watching Frozen and receiving phone calls, FaceTimes, text messages, and facebook notes, and doing NOTHING else.

I gave myself the gift of a work-free weekend. I spent Friday’s planning period planning ahead for the coming week. I think I need to try harder to make this a habit. It is nice to be firmly into Sunday night and not have any planning to think through. It was done for me before I even left school.

I am relaxed and joyful and feeling so full of love.

I feel like it’s been a week since I’ve been at school. And I think I needed that.

At the moment, I truthfully don’t feel ready to go back tomorrow. But I will save that worry for when the alarm clock goes off.

For now, I’m going to continue basking in the glow of the outrageously delicious and fancy dinner I had, courtesy of my boyfriend. And I’m going to put on the  DVR and watch the heck out of the season finale of The Walking Dead.

With that, I sigh a peaceful and joyful sigh and leave to finish savoring my day.

From the Mouths of Babes

My Birthday is this weekend. My students and their parents wanted to give me a little party.

And boy did they go to town.

Treats. Flowers. More treats. Homemade cards. A stuffed animal owl (both a favorite animal of mine and my personal symbol at school).

But the crowning thing, the thing that made my day and will make days to come, was this.

photo1-1

The parents interviewed all the kids and asked them what they like about me. Then, one parent collected them and turned them into a Wordle in the shape of my symbol.

I don’t teach to get recognition. I don’t go into it expecting praise and gift and thanks. I do it because I love kids and I genuinely enjoy their company and take pride in watching them learn.

Still, words cannot describe how much this gift means to me.

I spend everyday watching the kids and observing what I think they’re getting out of their time with me. So I think I know.

But this beautiful piece of art not only makes a gorgeous decoration, it tells me in the kids’ own words what our days spent together mean to them. And it’s really nice to know that. It’s really nice to hear it from the horses’ mouths.

What a wonderful birthday gift.