A Small Thank You

I’ve decided to try something new every morning in my classroom. Amy and I teach at a Catholic school and we always say a morning prayer with our children. We ask for intentions that we can pray for as a group. This daily practice not only strengthens our faith, but it strengthens our bonds as a classroom family. In addition to asking for intentions, I decided to offer thanks.

I find that every night I review my students’ daily triumphs and struggles. Lessons that went really well and others that could have been more interesting, dynamic, and/or memorable. I worry about the things I say to my children. I know that many of their lives are already touched with true hardships and challenges. I want to be the person that inspires them to become success stories. I live to see the happy light in their eyes and to hear their interest in math and literature. But what if I said something that hurt them without any intention to do so? We joke and kid, but I know that sometimes jokes hurt when someone is already wounded. Did I critique work kindly? Did I hold my frustrations inside? Do they know I love them?

I worry and think. I think and worry. I have to read a fun book at night or I can’t sleep well. I just can’t get them out of my mind. Why was Boy 1 mopey at the end of the day? Why did Girl 1 ask another girl why she would ever want to go home? Is Girl 2 eating enough? I can tell she is losing way too much weight. Is boy 2 feeling challenged? Is Boy 3 losing faith in his abilities? Is Girl 3 being nice, or did I see her slight another girl? Did her hug feel happy or desperate? Was his bruise from soccer or something else? Why did she look like she was crying? Did he know that I read his story and loved it? Does she know I believe in her gifts and talents? Does he know he is a born leader and just has to embrace his possibilities? Why was she absent…again? Did she say her mother hit her with a shoe? Her smile made my day! His moment of brilliance was so exciting. And….And…..And….

In order to sleep better, when I find myself focusing too much on the day, instead of trying to get my mind off of my kids, I decided to concentrate on the ways they brighten my life. So this morning in front of my class I said thanks. Thank you _____________ for your morning smile. Thank you _____________ for doing small acts of kindness for me each and every day. Thank you ____________________ for acting like you can’t stand me then hugging me the hardest at the end of the day. Thank you _______________ for telling me your fears because you know I am there for you. Thank you _____________ for showing such progress in your writing…Thank you, thank you, thank you, for making me the teacher and the person I am. You make it all worthwhile.


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It Wasn’t a Big Deal

I agreed to have a student teacher this fall early last spring. I committed to go to a meeting to learn the proper way to evaluate the teacher candidate and today was the day I was supposed to be at the meeting that was being held from 4:30-6:00. For those of you who are educators or parents you know that this is a difficult time of day to be incommunicado with your family. I left school early to find the building at the university, I called my prospective student teacher who was supposed to be in my room yesterday – no answer, and I arranged for my older daughter to miss a practice at school to bring home my other two children. I worried about dinner because I knew it wouldn’t be made and I frantically went over all the things I needed to do again and again in my mind. When I finally found parking (an hour and maybe a few bad words later) I walked aimlessly around a campus I didn’t know. When I found the building and then the room, I walked in and began to scan the name tags laying on the table. I didn’t see one with my name on it. I approached a woman who appeared to be in charge and questioned whether or not my student teacher should have contacted me by now via email, phone call, or her personal presence. “What’s her name?” asked the obviously busy woman. I told her and…..silence. “Oh, her. Well….Let me help these ladies, but you just wait right there.” Another faculty member was flagged down, whispering ensued and I was walked kindly out into the hall. “You see, she dropped out of the program last spring and I’m so sorry, well, we messed up. It was our mistake.”

I told her it wasn’t a big deal. Actually I was pretty happy I asked before the meeting and not after. It wasn’t a huge deal, don’t get me wrong, but I began to think about it. They asked for a volunteer to train, evaluate, and mentor a student teacher in the beginning of the school year. I immediately agreed without blinking an eye even though I knew that this time of year is extremely chaotic, busy, and crazy challenging. Oh, and don’t forget, cooperating teachers do not get paid extra for the added work. It’s all good. It’s part of the job. But why didn’t the faculty at a well known university take the time to contact me? The women knew immediately who I was talking about. Someone backing out of the final stages of earning a teaching license does not happen often.

Teachers do so much extra work for little or no added compensation. When will the public recognize the roles we play in our professional lives because we are not just “teachers? When will they notice the added duties, hours, training, coaching, educating, and mentoring? When will they place us on the same level as other professionals?

I’m sure the university meant to contact me. I still managed to get home, make dinner, exercise, play volleyball with my daughter, and write this blog.  It wasn’t a big deal….really.


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Doing The Right Thing

I have been recently reminded that some people just cannot seem to do the right thing; even if the choice is staring them in the face, they turn away. Taking the harder choice for the good of all is not really a priority in life currently. Being selfish is epidemic. I do know there are many who do the right thing every day without anyone noticing. It may not be recognized but it does make a difference.

I want to share a personal story about my father who (and I am not kidding), always strived to do the right thing.

My sister had a very best friend all through high school. My entire family loved her; she was full of life, kind, and a joy to be around. One day she was hit by a car (driven by a close friend) accidentally and was killed instantly. My sister was devastated, my family was deeply saddened, and the close friend’s life was shattered. This terrible event was absolutely horrific and sad in every way. My sister cried every night for a long time.  The friend of course was lost, although everyone knew it was an accident, a stupid little miscalculation, he felt the responsibility to his core, unable to move on with his own life. This is where he spiraled down into emotional depths of despair that most of us could never image.

Unbeknownst to me, my father silently stepped up to help. He found a job at his company for the boy. Okay that was kind enough, but it didn’t stop there, see the boy did not drive any longer so my father drove to his house and picked him up every day so he could work. Work means value; my dad knew that, treating him like he didn’t blame him also mattered, my dad knew that too.

I don’t know how long this went on; no one mentioned it, until my dad’s funeral. That boy’s wife and daughter came and told this story to my sister. They said that my father did something no one else did for that boy, showed him unconditional love when he felt he did not deserve it. I am sure it was an additional burden my dad did not need to deal with, he had six of his own children and a demanding job that underpaid him. But he still did the right thing. That boy is still alive today and he has turned his life around.  He has a wife, children, and grandchildren, and probably all because of my father. How amazing is that? And no one ever knew. That is doing the right thing.

PLEASE share stories of other examples with us on our site. I think we need to hear all of the good things sometimes instead of all the negative feedback that is shoved in our faces each day. I will add others, because let me tell you, my mom lives her life in a similar way, always choosing the right thing.

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Getting Started

I am completely overwhelmed. I could honestly stay at school eighteen hours a day. I have so much to do. It seems that no matter how many years I work at the same school, every year brings brand new challenges that need to be combined with all the old ones. Our school is paperwork and duty heavy. No day is completely structured no matter how hard we try. There are always activities, technology issues, different mass schedules, prayer services, or assemblies to work into already complex schedules. Flexibility is key in our school.

I plan to accomplish so much every day, but only get through maybe a third of my lists. Too many curve balls. The heat doesn’t help. Our school was built in 1948 and has not had much electrical updating. We do not have air conditioning. Being in a stifling room with 28 middle schoolers is hard and exhausting. I come home sweaty and smelly.

BUT…..I am so happy to be back. I absolutely love my kids! I missed them more than I realized. They energize me and make me laugh. Boy, do they make me laugh. Since I am in middle school, I will teach many of the same students, some for the third year in a row. We know each other. They get my sense of humor right at the start. How can you stay miserable when you get hugs in the morning and back pats in the afternoon? I look across the room and a student will look up from his/her work, smile and wink at me. They share their lives with me and listen to my stories. Excitement is in the air. I can literally feel their relief in the morning when they see me standing by my door. I’ll sing good morning off key and they will answer back, some in song also. We joke, dance, embarrass one another and tease. We work hard and learn a lot….from each other.

It’s a family and we’re home.

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First Day Jitters

Today my own children started school. My youngest son is in his last year at the elementary school, so he thinks he is “big stuff!” Luckily, my own school does not start for two more days so I got to walk him to the bus and meet all of the other parents at the bus stop.

This year there were two kindergarten students so the mom’s were a little emotional. Watching our babies grow up and leave us is so hard, even for me with my son; he is what keeps my husband and I young (even though we really aren’t.)

I know the sadness and fear of being a mother and watching my child get on a bus with an unfamiliar person driving and a bunch of nameless kids sitting there staring at him. You watch your child enter the world in a big yellow bus full or strangers and it rips your heart out.

Last year I had morning bus duty and got to greet the children each day as they arrived at school. They came in crying, angry, timid, and sometimes zombie-like. (Except for one kindergartner named Carlos who came in every day with a huge smile across his entire adorable face).  As we welcomed them by saying hello, good morning, good to see you, using their names, or “It’s Hump Daaaaay!” or by joking with them, they were fine.  (Or as Lori would scream from across the parking lot, “Tuck in your shirt!) They just needed that personal touch and transition from home, to school. It is easy to see my own son’s face in the faces of my students each day. I try to react and talk to my students as I would want his teacher doing for him.

I am lucky to see both sides of school, from a parent and from a teacher’s perspective. Sometimes we forget this. Compassion, empathy, and humor go a long way. I will try to remember this every day, and coincidentally we start on “Hump Daaaaaay!”

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