In Mourning

I think I’ve been in mourning for over a year and now I am finally crawling out of that dark place. I didn’t have any idea that I was suffering. I mean, I knew that I felt loss, but I just couldn’t figure out why. I thought that maybe I was going through a bit of a mid life crises, after all I’m 48…and a half. My greys are getting harder, if not impossible, to fight off. My oldest turned twenty and my middle is going into her senior year. I feel…well frankly, fat and quite yucky. I look in the mirror and see my mother at my age and although no one in this world could possibly love and admire her mother more, it is rather a shock when you look in the mirror and realize that you have become your mother. Not only those things, but our publisher has gone down in flames and we only have half of our series published. But, I don’t think any of that is the reason for this funk I’ve been feeling. I think I have been in mourning. Not for the loss of a loved one, but strangely enough, for the loss of the school I had been a part of for eight years.

People say a job is a job, and it is, sort of. I mean, I had to wake up ridiculously early, drive thirty minutes, plan creative and challenging lessons, grade countless papers, spend a fair amount of my own money, and teach both difficult and amazing students. I had to fight for my students on a daily basis and a had to feel exhausted, frustrated, exhilarated, and crazed every single day. I mean, I was a teacher and a dedicated one to boot. I was in a school that demanded a lot from me. Many of my students needed support, the principal asked a lot from everyone, and I had to be at the top of my game every day because the teachers around me were phenomenal. I grew very close to my staff, but that didn’t mean I was never angry. I took my turn crying and railing and yelling and Amy and I would complain and curse and scream in the van to and from work. I mean that school was hard work. But man, I felt like I was accomplishing something huge. I was making a difference. I was advocating for my students’ right for a great education and for a future.

There were many things at that school that drove me crazy, it was “work” after all. But it was home. Every time I walked through those doors I was exactly where I wanted to be. The smell, the feel, the volume was just…it. I laughed every single day. I was allowed to be loud and crazy. I expected to be teased mercilessly on a daily basis. My hair was the center of conversation and my singing was ridiculed, but it was okay because those people were my family. They knew I was there day after day for those kids. The students were why our world spun. Every decision we made, every extra effort we put into our work, every hour we stayed after our contracted work day was okay because everything we did was for the kids. We were in it together. And then with one decision made by someone who should not have the power to make such and important decisions ended that. Our family broke up. We all scattered and the world we created, the world me cherished, the world we lived for crumbled. It was and continues to be devastating.

I am now a full time administrator and I feel that I made the right choice in leaving when I did. I made the same decision that many of my school family members made. We saw the writing on the walls and we made the extremely difficult decision to leave, to break away, to flee. It was the right decision, but it wasn’t easy.

I moved on. I did what I had to do. Little be little I’m letting it go. I am searching for my passion again. I’ve missed it… you know that feeling of strong purpose. I have learned a lot this year. I’ve grown as an educator. I’ve had to leave my comfort zone and stretch myself. In the midst of my loss I had to concentrate on finishing up my work on my principal’s license and I had to get used to a brand new job that didn’t really resemble anything like I had done in the past. These responsibilities kept me focused and although from time to time I would let myself go under, I didn’t have time to focus on my hurt and on my loss. I couldn’t let myself drop the ball and feel sad. I know it sounds crazy, I mean, it was just a job, but it was so much more. But, now that I know I’ve been in mourning I feel like my footing is returning. I know now what’s been wrong with me. I can now get over it and move on.

My loss is so small compared to others, I know that and I think that was one of the reasons I didn’t realize I was in mourning. I am grateful for all I have. I know I am very lucky for so many reasons. But I also know that I was very lucky when we had our old school because not many people get to go to work every day with their family. We were blessed.

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Saving Lives

My dad is a pharmacist and for awhile he worked at a prison. This was after he retired and he had the opportunity for a some extra income. He worked at the prison pharmacy just a few hours a week and when he didn’t, well, he was golfing and cooking, and sitting in the barber shop. My mom would see him leaving and she would ask him, “Where are you going?” His response was always the same….”I’m going to save lives.” My mom would chuckle, because he actually meant it. You see, my father felt, and still feels, that his job was to catch the doctor’s mistakes. Some doctors prescribe a drug that could have negative interactions with medications the patient is already taking. He/pharmacists are in the background and they still save lives.

Teaching and educating the youth in our country/world is the same. Strong and knowledgeable educators save lives. You may think I’m being metaphorical, but I can assure you that I am being quite literal. Think about it.

Interacting with children everyday makes your role in their lives extremely important. Children are impressionable. The way a teacher talks, speaks and acts can have a profound effect on a student. Some educators may not realize this, and in fact, they may choose to ignore this because it puts too much pressure on them. I mean, some people want to come into a classroom, share their knowledge, have the children do the work, then leave for the day. They want to stop thinking about the kids, about the job, about the weight of what they are doing, but, if you are a true educator, down in your soul, this is impossible. You can’t teach without taking care. You can’t spread a love of discovery and thoughtfulness, and ingenuity without connecting with the students. Without a true connection to the boys and girls sitting in seats in the room where you work, well you might as well be a computer program because people can learn material from just about anything or anyone, but they can only live the material, ingest the material, and expand on the material when someone inspires them. And this, folks, is a huge responsibility.

Everyday I walk into school a little bit tired, a bit annoyed, and sometimes even grumpy. I want to huff and puff my frustration and I would just love to turn my back and walk away from the drama, you know, after I tell someone off really well. But I don’t. It’s strange really. As soon as the bell rings and when that first baby walks around the bend or out of the bus, I smile. I can’t help it. I hug, I tease, I prod, I cheer, and I sing every single day. The children in my care know that I am there for them so if they have a problem, well, they know I’m there to listen. And I do listen, and nod, and share, and sometimes even cry with them. I rejoice when they are brilliant and I get angry when I fail them. I take responsibility for their woes and I feel pride when they aspire. The kids know I enjoy them because they are the reason I do this. I will always try my best with each of them. I will always listen. I will always hear. And, I will always do whatever it takes to meet their needs. Why? Because every day I enter my school….I save lives.

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Graduation Blues

I have worked with a variety of amazing students from three years to 8th grade. Some of these students got great grades, some struggled, some were defiant, some talked way too much, some had a fabulous sense of humor, and some had the biggest heart and bravest soul you ever saw. All of these children were brilliant, in their own special way. 

As a teacher, I have encouraged, motivated, pushed, and helped my students learn. Sometimes they got frustrated and sometimes I got frustrated. My job was to get right back up and try again and teach them to do the same. I have tried to instill the virtue of perseverance to all of my students. There are days when they are mad at me and days when they laughed at my uniquely ridiculous teaching strategies. It’s my job and it is my passion.

Tonight, my son needed me to be that nurturing teacher. I had to tell him that sometimes in life you do everything right, work hard, be responsible, and still someone else gets the recognition. It may not be your moment to shine, maybe it is that other student’s moment. Life does not stop at high school graduation. Life is not defined by your high school accomplishments. Life is so much more.

One day at a time, one challenge at a time, one victory at a time, it will all happen. Patience is a virtue, it is just not an easy one to understand sometimes. The teacher in me says, hang in there, you can be anything you want to be, the mom in me wants to hold him close and tell him everything will be alright. Life is a journey that you must make your own way through, but tonight I wish I could make that way a little easier for one special high school graduate, my brilliant son, Isaac.

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This has been a crazy year. New job, new position, completed my administration internship, took my administrative test, lost a beloved family pet, and gained a new puppy. Amy says I’m insane all the time and I now believe her.

We lost Choochy back in November. He was the greatest dog there every was. He had his ups and downs in life. He had his third eyelid flip, he had the worst breath known to man, he snored rather loudly, he had the most horrible gas, he lost all but four teeth, he was a chub, and he had horrible hips and kneecaps. But there has never been a kinder, more loving dog. Not only that, but he was smart. He never had accidents, he never ran away and whenever my feet were cold, he would lay on them to warm them up. He never snapped at a child and he was extremely protective of Audrey when she was born a little early. He slept by her bassinet on most days until she became strong. When we got Shi Shi, our second dog, although she annoyed him to death, he trained her. She insisted on sleeping with him even though he would have a low insidious growl going for the entire time she dug, turned, and worked herself into the best possible position. She is now a fantastic calm dog at two years old. When Choochy died, I can honestly say that she remained in depression for at least four months. She is finally getting back to her old self.

When Choochy died I wanted another baby puppy to love and take care of. Shi Shi is wonderful, but it became clear early on that she was Sean’s (my husband’s) dog. She followed him everywhere and still cries for a ridiculous amount of time when he leaves the house. So Shi Shi didn’t fit the bill for me. I needed a dog that loved me above all. I’ve got her. Her name is Tinkerbell, but we call her Tink.

Tink is a little different than my other two dogs. She is adorable and soft, and cute, and cuddly. She loves to kiss you and she will take a walk any time of the day or night. But she is not quite the same as Shi or Chooch. I have used all of the same training techniques on Tink that I’ve used on my other dogs. I’ve read the manuals, watched the videos, praised, gave treats time and time again. I have tried to reason with her about the proper times to relieve herself. I take her out constantly in all kinds of weather. I yell for my family to pitch in and Tink probably goes on 12 walks a day. Tinkerbell will not learn. I hear my husband say, “Thank you for the kisses….no, no, no, no bite.” I can hear swear words mumbled as I hear, “No peeing in the house!” And this is usually growled out just after I brought her in from one of her many walks. She steals any clothes off the floor, her most favorite being underwear. Tink has chewed through four retractable leashes and now she has a indestructible five foot leash. She pounces at Shi Shi, usually as Shi is in the middle of a sound sleep, and she is the only dog, child, anything that Sean and I have allowed to sleep in our bed. Why, you ask? Because she would wake us up every hour, on the hour during the night if she was in the cage. Now she wakes me up every single morning around 5:00a.m. by climbing onto my chest and kissing me nonstop. You see, she want to go on a walk. When we walk around the block other dogs glance our way and keep going. Not Tink, she starts barking and wakes up the entire neighborhood. Tink is eight pounds.

I have a proven process to train dogs. I have used it on both of my other dogs and my training techniques worked perfectly. I used research to make sure my plans were backed by experts and I included praise. But with Tink, nothing has worked. I have had to rethink my training strategies over and over again. I have to be completely consistent, and I have to make the time for her training even when I’m exhausted. Yes, I could get rid of her, but I love her. She is now my baby. I am responsible for her and I take that responsibility very seriously.

Tink reminds me of those students who don’t fit the mold. They should thrive under my teaching skills, I mean they have worked for years on other students, but for some reason these students are a bit different. These types of students are still my responsibility. It is still my goal to make them learn and thrive under my care. I have to show them how to succeed and teach them the tools for success. I just have to do it differently.

All students are different. Some may be grouped together and thrive under a prescribed lesson, but this is not good enough. It is an educator’s responsibility to ensure the success of every single student sitting in the room. This takes time, effort, care, and skill. A great teacher realizes this and makes it his priority to change, adapt, and to become a better equipped teacher. This teacher doesn’t look for excuses, blames the student, or even tries to get rid of the student. She embraces the challenge and does everything in her power to give this stdent what he needs. That’s what a great teacher does.

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