Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Teacher

I've spent 8 years working with 6 and 7 year olds, I've worked for 7 administrators, had 8 different teammates, 7 different classroom aides. It's been a quite a ride.  I started out this school year with a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand, I was thankful to be going back to work after our icky summer. I needed routine, purpose, and a reason to get dressed in the morning. I yearned for the spirit and joy that my students brought to my life. I was relieved to have a new class and have a fresh start. The honeymoon phase lasted a few months and then burnout hit and I found myself seriously considering walking away from the classroom forever. The thing is, as I imagine it might go when something like a marriage falls apart, that it wasn't any one was the weight of a thousand small things. To name a few: intense behavior issues that deviate from "normal" classroom management,  educational coaches, pundits, leaders, and decision makers patronizingly thanking educators because "dang, I couldn't do what you do" (and also some variation of "I left the classroom to make the big bucks, good for you for sticking with it. Now let me tell you how to do what I didn't want to". Insert huge eyeroll here I've heard this sentiment more times than I can count), the endless testing/data/number crunching, being treated like a robot and expecting 6 year olds to be robots too, kids who don't read or do any work at home and their data shows it and I take it personally. 

These are not new struggles to me. See this post written last year. And to top it off, my daughter died between this school year and last. I was stressed and frustrated all last year and have had a really hard time separating that from Hadley. Would she want me still here or would she say, "Mom, get the heck outta the classroom."? These are completely honest feelings I dealt with this past fall (just being real with ya'll)  and in all honesty, still linger a bit. But somewhere around November three big things changed and have made me the happiest teacher I have ever been:

1) I flipped the script: Instead of internally chastising parents for failure to love and appreciate their little miracles, I began to put myself in their shoes.(You know what hurts an angel mom's heart more than anything? Parents who for whatever reason make selfish decisions and don't put their kids' futures first. It's hard to witness). I could look at each of my students in a more loving way. I could stop placing blame, and not necessarily put it back on myself, but just do away with the blame game all together. Do I still get frustrated when my data may look sub-par? Of course, I'm a perfectionist, but I'm learning day by day that I cannot be a perfectionist and last in this career. I'll get let down every single time. I also flipped the script of blame and began to embrace the fact that most people are doing the best they can with what they have where they are. It is so easy for me to place judgment and blame. But, newsflash, that accomplishes nothing. Who am I to judge? I had to forget the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" and just roll up my sleeves and get to work. Part of flipping the script is staying away from negativity and defeat. Do I still complain about stupid crap and get frustrated? ALL. THE. TIME. But, I make a concerted effort to leave very negative situations and conversations. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

2) I self advocated: This one is HUGE. I took a lot of crap in previous years. I picked up slack, agreed to things I shouldn't have, and gave more chances than any sane person would. NO more. After our summer, I learned my strength, and I learned the importance of speaking up (AJ and I had to make decisions and act quickly when it came to Hadley's care. We made decisions and requirements that were best for her. We put our feet down and got all "Papa and Mama Bear" when we needed to. For example, we refused to have meetings regarding her most important health information at her bed-side. We required the medical team meet with us in a separate room at a designated time so we could prepare ourselves. Getting vitals and discussing Hadley's health with her laying right there became unacceptable to me. We were polite and respectful with these requests of course). I've leaned  on others and taken them at their word when they tell me they'll help me when I've needed it. I cannot do it all, nor should I be expected to. When things are wrong, I'll speak up (again, respectfully) and you know what? Offer to help me and there's a 99% chance I'll take you up on that offer now. I've been so surprised and delighted that oftentimes merely asking for something produces results. Ask and you might not always receive, but you have nothing to lose by asking. 

3) I seriously looked into other careers: I spent many hours researching, calling, emailing, and talking to others about other careers. What did I discover? I love my job. I thought of all the elements of teaching I just didn't want to give up at this point in my life: working with children, planning creative lessons, fun coworkers who I get along well with, making a difference, teaching kids how to read and love books, a fairly flexible schedule, never working nights or holidays, summers off, all the fun classroom decorating I get to do, I get to read and learn about how kids learn and I had to face facts:  it's my passion. Every teacher should be required  to take a class on how to sift through the crap and embrace what we're all here for. 

Teaching has taught me more about life than I have ever taught my students. It's crazy, guys. It's weird, and messy, and complicated, and freaking hard, and somedays you cry. But somedays you laugh so hard that you cry. These little people inspire me. Monday is the 100th day of school and while yes, I am thrilled that there's 80 more days till summer break, I'm also celebrating the fact that this pack and I made it to the big 100. A lot of learning and growing happened in those 100 days. I'm not a perfect teacher and I know the world of education has a lot of changing and growth that needs to happen, but for right now? Today? It's where I'm meant to be. 

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