I will soon be contributing to our Parkland School Division’s 184 Project blog in a couple of weeks, and the question that it consistently asks is: “What have you learned today?”. And let’s face it – that’s a BIG question! Returning home from 2 packed days at the NCTCA 2013 Teachers Conference left my brain with a lot to process, forcing me to sit down and actually sort through what it has been that I have learned. While the list was not infinite, it seemed to take awhile to find its “finite-ness”. I’ve tried my best to narrow it down to Five Things That Have Shaped and/or Moved Me”.
1) October is tough. I equate this to the first six weeks with your newborn child. If you have children, more than likely you understand, if you don’t, allow me to explain. The first six weeks with your newborn is wonderful. It is a miraculous time, awe-inspiring even. Your hopes and your love for this tiny individual knows no bounds. You are humbled by this beautiful gift you have been given, and you are suddenly driven to provide for every want, need or whimper that this little miracle could ever dream of. And it’s all true. What they don’t tell you is that honestly, while all these things are going on in the foreground, the behind-the-curtains action, stinks. You’re exhausted. You’re crying as much as the kid. That you are certain this isn’t what you signed up for (because clearly the university didn’t offer a course in “October”), and it is very easy to start to spin in circles. While waaay back in the recesses of your before-baby / before-October brain, you KNOW that you are/were capable. You KNOW you have/had skills. You KNOW you are not always a blubbering mess. But those first six weeks throws every doubt and hesitation at you that you didn’t even know that you didn’t know. And that’s how I found October. September finds you getting to know your class, defining and settling in to a routine that can only improve as the year matures. The weather is warm. Supervision is fun. You’re rested. You have a game plan. And these are good things. But those seemingly seamless days have a lot of planning behind them. And for me, anxiousness and a constant, nagging question of “am I doing ok??!! AM I OK??!!” First report is looming and these students that I had never met until 6 weeks prior now need to be reported on honestly. I need to find areas of strength and growth and try to let that someone, who’s world is this child, know that I care about this kid and where this kid is going, so much so that it has kept me up at night, concerned about whether or not I am doing what that kid needs. So I have learned that a good sleep takes away a lot of shadows and that when it comes right down to it, no teacher has died due to doing their first report card. And honesty with kindness counts for everything.
2) Some of our best lessons have branched off from a lesson that had nothing to do with the lesson learned. We have laughed until tears have rolled down our face. We have had hard conversations. We’ve taken 8 deep breaths because somewhere that crazy Mrs. Carson said that she read that deep breaths get rid of yucky stuff inside. At least 70% of it, and while we have yet to do percentages, 70 seems like a lot. Sometimes we just need a dance break. So I have learned that to take a moment to breath deeply saves us many other moments of unrest, unease, and anxiousness. I have learned that when one of my kids is upset that we just need to move off to the side for a minute and I just need to whisper gently “let’s take a deep breath then you tell me when you’re ready”. This technique also works very well for those of us in our 30s.
3) My heart gets well exercised. It swells with joy. It beats quicker when I know someone “got it”. It breaks consistently, because somewhere along our twisted path, that is supposed to take us through lush and beautiful places where the sun is shining and then through hard places for what I would hope would only be moments, well sometimes my kids are in the hard places for longer. Sometimes it’s been awhile since they have seen the sunshine. Sometimes they just hurt all over and my trying to teach them addition with remainders is so far removed from their reality, that it is just one more buzzing fly circling the bare bulb. And I will tell you that as a mother of three and a teacher who has found a wholeness to herself in teaching, this will always make me die a little inside for these wee ones that take on far too much of this world, when they’re not even in the double digits themselves. So I have learned that some days we need to teach math by counting our blessings.
4) A plan makes all the difference in the world. One year my father gave me a pair of snowshoes and a compass. He taught me the difference between Magnetic North and True North. He showed me on a map how to recognize the height of land – the dividing point between watersheds that make rivers flow in different directions. I made sure I could start a fire in the snow and make a shelter if I didn’t make it home before dark. I always let someone know the vicinity I would be in. And more often than not, I didn’t need all these extras. More often than not, I had an amazing day in the woods where I took some beautiful pictures and boiled a kettle of snow to have tea and ate a homemade cookie. But I had a plan if something didn’t go as planned. I never know how my day is going to end up whenever I walk through the door of my classroom at 7:30 in the morning. I never know what my kids are going to bring to the table. But I have a plan and that seems to always put us on to a solid start.
5) There are teachers everywhere – and this includes the 7 & 8 year olds in my class. The lessons I have learned in kindness and sharing have brought me to my knees by their simple truths. I am thankful everyday. Every week we have Thankful Thursday. It is a time where we stop and recognize that there are people who surround us everyday, that do their jobs without complaining or advertising what they are doing, and the effect is that we are able to do our jobs more successfully. Thankful Thursday is about lifting our heads and eyes to the world around us and recognizing that we are not successful by ourselves. And most importantly, that we are not alone.
These are the lessons I have learned that stand out over and over so far. I have no doubts my list will grow and I am excited to see what’s next.