Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2 Lists

I am going to make 2 lists in this blog: Things that are Making Me Happy Right Now and Things that are Not Making Me Happy Right Now. That's right, I'm dumbing it down to something that basic and simple...essentially it's a glorified diary entry. But here's the deal, I'm going to make a concerted effort to make one list longer than the other...because that's the list I want to really focus on.

Things That are Not Making Me Happy

I miss my old school, my old students and my old teacher friends.

You know how much I hate dwelling on the negative, so this is the only thing I am going to put on this list, because it is probably the most overwhelming feeling, related to my job, that I am experiencing right now. In my last entry I wrote about how much I missed the familiarity and comfort of knowing what I was doing every day in my job, now I am missing the actual people I used to surround myself with on a daily basis.

By the end of the school year last year, I felt pretty good about my knowledge of a middle school kid's psyche. I could predict when they would have questions, when they might challenge me, when they might try to pull a fast one, or when they were too uncomfortable to say how they really felt. I knew which assignments were going to make them tick and which assignments were going to make them groan. It probably took me at least 6 months to master it, but I was pretty confident by the end of those 6 months, that I knew how to be a middle school teacher. So now, I am relearning and asking myself every day, how do I become a high school teacher?

What I miss more than my students though, are the adults I worked with every day. I never realized how great it was to be teaching with other young people in their first 5 years of teaching. Though we were all at different stages in our career, we were still all learning together. And the teachers still had the same energy and enthusiasm for aspects of teaching that older, or should I just say more experienced teachers just find to be old news. We would debrief every day, sometimes sprawled out like defeated soldiers in Jessica's classroom, just talking about the little nuances, frustrations and joys of our job. I didn't realize until now how important that was.

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How can you not miss that face?

Things That are Making Me Happy

Putting a good book in to a student's hand.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from students this past week:

"My mom thought something was wrong with me because I was reading so much yesterday."

"I finished that book you gave me yesterday last night. Now what should I read?"

"Okay, this is really weird, I am actually enjoying this don't understand, Ms. Baird, Ihate reading."

I am still convinced that there is nothing more powerful than placing the right book in to the right kids' hands.

I'm starting to take more ownership of my lessons.

I breezed through the first couple of weeks of school without enough confidence to create my own lessons. I scraped together borrowed lessons from other teachers and half-heartedly presented them like a robot. Then I went home and wondered why I wasn't gaining any pleasure or excitement from my job.

Then it dawned on me! Some people are teachers who enjoy conveying a message through a medium that has already been created. They can easily pick up the "rhythm" of another teacher's design and make it their own. I am not that kind of teacher. I get all my energy from designing the lesson and activity myself.

So, slowly but surely, I have begun to incorporate my own flair and ideas in to my lessons. I'm even beginning to use some of the great technology aspects that I have been wanting to use on a daily basis. Thanks to mom, who never fails to inundate my inbox with new classroom tech tools! I hope to continue to find the time and energy and enthusiasm for creating my own activities every day because I think it is truly what gives me the exuberance in my classroom that I need.

I am taking time out for me.

This summer I discovered a new love: yoga. It is truly the closest I have come to spirituality in a very long time. Yesterday, I mustered up the energy to force myself to go to candlelight yoga from 8-9 PM. Since I haven't gone in about a month, I was sweatier than normal, but afterward, I really did feel more at peace with the chaos of my life. My favorite lines that yoga instructors often say are what keep me coming back:

"You have already gotten through the hardest part of this session, and that was making the time in your day to be here."

"There is no judgement here. All that matters is what is happening in the confines of your mat."

"Clear your mind, let go of everything that has happened in your day, everything you are worried about in your future, and just be present."

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That's me in dancer's pose on the beach... okay, no it's not.

In addition to yoga, I also ran a 5k with my family last weekend. Again, I had been running all summer, and while I was not thrilled with my run at the race, I was very proud of what I had accomplished. I've found that when I do make the decision to run, it is an escape unlike any other. My body is moving and breathing and beating in rhythm. It is almost like another form of meditation, my mind clears and all that has happened in my day is transferred in to my legs and feet.

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The proud B-Squad. Turns out wearing a lime green shirt at a race is a surefire way to get a lot of shout-outs and support while running!

Another thing that I did last week that was extremely refreshing was on last Wednesday night. Kelsey invited me to this “thing” that doesn’t really have a name because they aren’t really sure what it is. Its groundwork is in conversation. Essentially, it’s a bunch of people, my age, coming together to talk in guided discussion. While some of it is faith based, it isn’t a bible study nor is it heavy on the things that tend to really bug me about Christianity. There was good tea, good live music, a good story and great conversation. I realized how much I miss being able to interact with other people my age intellectually, like in college. It felt so good to get out of the house on a week night and put my energy in to something new and different and out of my comfort zone. I’m hoping it can be something I make in to a habit.

I am going to stop this list now, because I feel satisfied that I am surrounding myself with people and things and hobbies that are keeping me happy and grounded. Right now, I may not be defining my happiness through my job, and although I some day would like to be, as long as I keep my life infused with these little things, I know I’ll be okay.

Oh and frequent phone calls with my old school friends definitely help too!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Embracing Change

I've been avoiding writing a blog entry because I have come up against so many major milestones in my life and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make each blog post epic and impressionable. This one probably will be neither, but it will at least feel good to get it all out. And I always preach to my students to stop self-criticizing and just write, so I'm going to listen to my own sermon and just write.

One of the major-est milestones is that I switched schools and am already in my 3rd week of teaching at my new school. I am at a point in my life where I am learning to adjust to so much that I don't remember what it was like to feel comfortable in consistency. Every day brings forth new questions, new challenges, and new puzzles that I thought I had solved last year but crop up in an entirely different way now. Adjusting to something new, a new procedure, a new facility, new students, new ages, new lifestyle, is exhausting. Every step I take I second guess myself. Will the students respond to this question? How long will this activity take? How do I word this in my syllabus? Is this too hard for them? Is it too easy? Do I sound like an idiot? I am starting all over again and I can't help but look fondly and desperately back at my old school and think, "Man, if only I were still there, my life would be so much easier right now. I'd know exactly what I was doing."

It's times like these, when I feel stressed and anxious and clueless and frantic and on the brink of breaking down, that I cling to the idea that without change, the world would be static. Change brings opportunity. It's not meant to be comfortable.

While teachers prepare students for a "changing world" it is ironic that the teachers themselves have the most difficulty dealing with change. For some reason, educators deal with change poorly, as soon as a new path is created they get upset that the old path is being abandoned. When new ideas are thrown in to the mix teachers whine and fuss and claim that "the old way worked just fine!" There are some big changes occurring at my new school, just like the school I taught at last year, and with those changes comes the hope for instilling something new and lasting and important in the lives of these students. But change is awkward and uncomfortable. It means more work and less certainty. It means making mistakes and learning from them.

So when I get upset and stressed that my life is changing, I think about how I don't want to be one of those people who refuses to adjust, who digs her heels in to the ground and says "No! MY way is best!" clinging steadfastly to good, but worn-out ideals and snubbing my nose at innovation. Instead I want to ride the bumpy waves of change and hope it carries me in a positive direction.

I hope to post again soon, with some less vague, more fun little stories from my first few days of my new school.