Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When the Teacher Leaves the Classroom

A Teaching Life--well lived, filled with activity and stimulation and chatter, and behaviors...oh, the behaviors! Kids need lots and lots of stimulation, physical movement, interactive time, and time to digest and question what they've learned. I love my profession; I always have. It has never, ever been a job to me.

Teaching and learning are the things I know best, and so I've been gifted with the career of my dreams. I've lavished through 32 seasons of teaching, living my life with the opening and closing of the classroom door. I've sat on the beach and dreamed up units of study in reading and writing in the summertime...envisioned lessons and the activities that kids would love, so that school would not be a burden for them to endure.

And then, in late August and early September, I'd race to the teachers' store, and buy up name tags and bulletin board paper (the school's colors were always too bland) and borders and desktags and books and notebooks (I was finicky about that too.). I bought button collections and dreidels and straws and cotton balls and even a miniature zoo! But most of all...I bought books! Lots and Lots of books--and truth be known (don't tell my husband), I'm still buying them to put the just right book in the hands of my kids.

And throughout the years, I've worked hard to keep the engines moving. Writing has always been my passion. And because of that, I've prided myself in making sure they filled up at least one notebook, and most of the time two...with poetry and stories and expert information that they'd gleaned because they had a passion they chose to write about. I have loved the kids who were reportedly 'blocked'...they're the ones who'd convinced themselves and their parents they couldn't write.
I'd leave them alone, ignore their protests, and let them do the best they could. And as soon as they started to pop...much like the blooms on a tree--I'd move in quickly to lather on the praise, and then shrink back into the shadows again.

At the beginning of this year, I had no plans of retiring. And if you'd asked me, I'd probably give you a look. You see, I always wanted to go out on my own terms, never appearing old or impassioned, I simply wanted to sneak out the side door on the last day with the kids. I knew that day would come. We all know. My decision to leave...comes with kids at the heart of it. I will never be that teacher that everyone groans about. I will never shortchange a class because my energy or enthusiasm can not match theirs. A teacher needs to his/her heart, when that gifted period of teaching begins to show a bit of wear and tear.

So...before I become-

I have decided to take this time in my life to drop my keys on the table, turn my kids over to next year's super star...and take the opportunity to leave. I haven't really thought about this day...about what it will be like not to be surrounded constantly by a circle of kids. But honestly, I've been opening that classroom door since I was five years old, and now, it's time to enjoy a little sun on my face, the flexibility to enjoy family, friends, and to finally devote some time to my own writing...and the plethora of other things that I most enjoy in life!

From mouths of babes...

Ode to Sunshine
by Alex W., one of the many talented students I've been so blessed to know!

An ode to the sunshine
brightening my day
banishing the darkness,
to a place far, far away.
Ode to the sunshine 
yellow among blue,
warming the treetops,
evaporating the dwindling dew.
Ode to sunshine
making colors brighter, 
tanning my arms,
making t-shirts whiter.
Ode to sunshine
brightening my day,
banishing the darkness,
tucking the shadows away.

The shadows--the years, well they have caught up with me, but...I am not feeling my age at all. I have my health and a lifetime of memories. I am so ever grateful for all that I've been given in my Newtown teaching career...most of all for the friendships I've forged. Truth is, when you teach with champions, it's hard not to want to rise to the level of that cream! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mud Shake: More Lessons from a Golden Mud-making Machine

So today, as I battle this bleak and dreary, ugly pre-Easter day, I have to remember--a small dose of gratitude, and not this awful crankiness, is what I really need.

Looking in the rearview mirror is usually the best strategy I've got. After all, any of us who live
in a country like ours, ought to get down and kiss the ground beneath our feet. (I'm hearing my dad's voice in my head as I write this!) 

Luxury life is filled with them! And really, whose isn't? What I do with them, and how I live with acceptance of them is really the name of the game.

But in past years, I have had a cup that has overflowed! I've had jelly beans and Easter egg hunts, little cuddly babies of my own. And as my kids grew into little kids, I chased them around in the backyard, and took them on hikes in their boots, in those cold first days of Spring.

I want all my kids to be home. I want that huge Easter celebration, much like the ones I've had in the past. I want that excitement of the nest filling up again.

But, what I think I need is downtime, a book, a dog, time with my long-time boyfriend,
and a chance to sit at the dinner table and chat with at least one of my kids.

And that, I will have.

It's been a long hard winter, and now, the first real signs of Spring that I've found,
is the giant mud puddle my dog loves to lay in and the tiny tick I found on his forehead
today. But, as I look closer, dig deeper...and spend a little time outdoors--

I hear a very loud vociferous chorus, the birds, playing off the stand of trees--my own pine forest in my backyard. A gaggle of geese honk above me, searching and finding the pond just below my yard. And that smell...the earthiness of mud and worms. Well, as dumb as that sounds, it's then I finally, I succumb.

Like that big old muddy golden of mine...I will shake off what isn't to be for right now, and be grateful for all I've been given today. And then--I will enjoy our much smaller group tomorrow--that little Easter party of nine!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sliding onto a Mat: March 31, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge 31/31 (I'm there!) #solc15

After a long day, long month, long home on a Tuesday night to catch the SLOW, energetic flow class was just what the doctor ordered today. I honestly wish I'd discovered yoga years ago. But a good friend of mine always tells me we're never late--as long as we eventually arrive where we belong.

I belong in yoga; a non-sport, non-judgmental energetic adventure that brings me to a place of candles and warmth and wanderings I'd never even imagined before. 

A long line of energy flows from the top of my scalp  to the very tip of my toes. I reach high into the heavens and arc back just a bit. Then the length of me reaches and stretches, upward dog and downward dog, pigeon pose, and poses that sometimes leave me dangling in mid-air perpendicular to the wood floor. 

One moment, I am a goddess, the next I am a warrior ready to face the world.

In the end, my worn-out body stretches long over my blue mat, I curve my spine upward then bring it back down, hoist myself up and plow my toes toward the sky...then all at once toss them again toward the back of the room. And last, I return, one vertebrae at a time to the floor for a long, meditative shavasana...
reclining pose. 

Yoga. Is. Life...
a hard-working teacher's best friend.
Happiness lives inside the practice, and my family, my friends,
my students and the rest of the world deserve a happier me.


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I've participated in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: What a great way to keep story threading through my brain each day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Today, I got to thinking about Spring Break. It's a four-day week filled with lots to do, but heck...a girl can dream, right? And then as soon as the thought entered my brain, I started to think about an old friend I haven't visited in a long time...Welcome Back Sun, by Michael Emberley. This beautifully illustrated story highlights a small Norwegian village, waiting for murketiden, or murky time, the time of darkness to end. The young girl in the story wants badly to follow the path of another young girl of legend who trekked through the mountains to lead the sun back to the valley.

When I open this book, I am that girl. Waiting, not as much for light, but for the arrival of that feeling of warmth on my cheeks and my shoulders...the tossing of a coat for a sweater, and best of all to put on a pair of shorts and sandals again.

This year, that sun's warmth has a taken a long, long time to show its face. Winter has pelted us over and over again. This morning we woke up to another pelting. But in the background, I could hear the distant sound of the birds, and the geese landing on the pond below my house. I know it's coming.

But...winter, with it's grainy snow,  still clings to this landscape.

And so, I've made a radical decision. I'm tossing in the towel. I'm tired of this long, long wait. I am, just like this little girl, heading over the mountains and flying and then driving to Sedona--hot, hot Sedona. I know, it may not be that hot there in April. But hopefully, I'll be able to find a warm seat somewhere, curl up with a great book, and soak up a bundle of sun!

And when I come back, I'll be sure to bring back a mega-dose of sun's warmth for all my friends who've lived through this torrid winter with me too!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Many Faces of Early Spring! March 29, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #solc15

Nature, Mother Nature...oh what a terribly wonderful thing. What I love most about early Spring is the unrelenting dog-fight it seems to wage with Winter to just let it pass, and give us all some relief!
Today, I spent a couple hours with my buddy. I was bundled and wrapped with  a hat and a hood and a scarf and mittens! I was taking no chances after the crazy snowy day we had yesterday. I figured we'd have a quick jaunt up the hill and then a long walk back on the paved path.

Reilly had other ideas:

Ah, c'mon...we haven't been back in the woods in months.

So I followed. NO WATER, I yelled...

                            But, I'm pretty sure he was laughing at me!

                           And then, of course, next up, was the mud--I yelled, NO MUD!

                 But, he squished his toes in the ooze and smiled right back at me.


And then, finally he landed in a huge, grainy mound, and waited. 

                                                              Got snowballs? 

                                                           And of course, I did.

    For this big pup,  this in-between time...Winter's chilly entry into Spring? 

     Could last forever--but not for me! Bring on the warmth. I'm ready for REAL Spring!

***A little shout-out to our TEAM 26, riding in this chilly spring weather two Washington, cycling to make a statement, to work for take us out of this in-between world of horror, and help bring an end to school violence forever in the United States! (Go Monte!)


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Books by the Millions! March 28, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge-#solc2015

Almost all my life, I've believed you can never have too many shoes, boots or books. In fact, if you looked at my closet, you could easily say I feel that way about sweaters and blouses and skirts. But now, my thinking is definitely undergoing a change.

Today was another in a series of Saturdays, emptying Grandma's house and filling up my car. Last night I went to the library and closed the place, lugging in bag after bag of books. And today...after spending the morning there, my car was filled up all over again! It took me about forty minutes to lug those books and place them in neat rows on the overflowing library sale cart.

Grandma loved her stuff. She loved little chotchkies from Christmas Tree Shoppes, and she loved linen and lace, but the thing she loved most in the world, apart from her grandkids and a good recipe, was definitely a good book and an hour or two to read. 

So today, I honored Grandma. I returned all her books to the place she probably loved best too--the library. And as I lugged those boxes and bags up the stairs and through the sliding doors, I just couldn't help but think there's got to be a chair in heaven and a special place filled with books--a gigantic reading room where Grandma can take all the time she needs to settle into a great book!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Little Things-March 27, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #sol15

Some days, especially Fridays in a week filled with conferences, report cards, meetings, Donuts with Dad and Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBACs), it's all I can do to grab my bag at the end of the day, close my door and find my way to the parking lot. Today was no exception.

On days like these, it really is the little things that we do for each other that give me that burst of energy, that human connection I crave.

I have a teaching buddy who, despite all that's thrown at him, never seems to be able to do anything but smile. And we have a tradition...we grab a cup of coffee, rarely have the time to drink it together, but at least stand there for the few minutes it takes for our Keurig to brew, to spoon in the sugar and pour a bit of cream in and stir. There's no time to hang around the coffee urn! But those simple five minutes help me put a smile on my face, and go back into my room and plan, or clean, or answer emails, or spend time reading my students' work.

Little things, to a teacher, mean a lot.

A few years ago, we had the best faculty meeting...ever. Don't get me wrong,  if I'm immersed in great professional development, you'll never hear me groan. But faculty meetings?
No sale. I keep an open mind while we move through all the news we need to know. But at this particularly cool faculty meeting--the best ever, I learned a new skill for life.

It was a very little thing.

On the table was a tiny brown, felt bag with a drawstring. Never being one to wait, I gave the little string a tug, and voila! Inside...a thin felt point pen, a pencil and a rolled paper made of cardstock for
shading. Zentangle! I'd never heard of it, or seen it anywhere in my world on the internet. Zentangle is the art of drawing small--immersing myself in the moment, the particular stroke I'm attempting to create.

Now? Two years later, I'm still using zentangling, escaping into a self-created small world as a means to relax. On Friday nights now, I grab my felt tipped pen, my zentangle journal, sink into my cushy gold couch. And when I put my pen to the page, I enter a completely new world. There are commitments, no plans...just me, the page, and whatever happens to pop into my head on its way to the pen!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

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