For the Teachers

Hey Teachers.

Are you tired?  Are you weary about going back to school tomorrow?  Feeling worn out?  Drained?  Wishing you could pull up the covers for just one more day to catch some extra zzz’s and let your mind and soul rest?

Me too.

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In fact, I have just recently pulled myself out of quite the funk.  I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have anxiety.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  That means that I am anxious pretty much all of the time.  Sometimes I get so caught up in obsessive thoughts that I can’t see my way out.  Sometimes my obsessive thoughts are centered around school and my job.  It kind of sends me out into this far away planet in outer space where I am the only inhabitant and it’s really dark and I can’t breathe very well and I think I’m not going to survive.  As I’m sure you can deduct, all of this feels really bad.  It just so happens that lately, I’ve been feeling bad about teaching.

So I’m digging myself out of the hole.  In the process, I’ve been thinking about how to manage all of my overwhelming feelings about simply not getting the job done.  There’s a lot of school year to get through…it’s barely past half-time.  The marching band is still on the field.  The dance squad has barely finished its routine.  I am going to need some strategies to make it to the end in one piece without losing my brain, my guts, my soul, and my heart.

I’ve decided to make a list of some ideas that might help me.  Maybe they will help you too.  We all could use some help when it comes to dealing with the bleak mid-winter funk.

 

1.Delight in Your Gifts.   We all have them.  God-given ones.  What are yours?  What do you bring to the table, or in this case, the classroom?   Is it relationships?  Content knowledge?  Classroom management?  Creativity?  What are you so good at that when you are teaching, energy flows out of you like a beam of light?  Focus on those things.  Focus on what you do really well.  We teachers tend to spend an awful lot of time (emphasis on awful) thinking about what we are doing wrong…what we could be better at.  But we are not teachers because of our shortcomings.  We teach because of our strengths.  Think on them.  Write them down and keep them at your desk and in your heart.

2. Remember the Good Ones.  Teachers, that is.  The best ones you had.  Why did they stand out?  What was it about them that made such an impact on you?  It could have been because you learned so much from them, but it also could be that they connected with you on some level and lit a fire inside.  My favorite teachers were my favorites because they were fun (and mostly funny), they were kind, they made learning fun, and they made me feel important – like I mattered in the world.  Honestly, whatever fire they started was already a spark in me anyway – they just fanned the flame.

3. Celebrate Growth.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that I needed to be an expert at everything.  On day one.  If there’s something I don’t know how to do or don’t teach well, I shrink behind my desk waiting for the teacher police to come and arrest me because…forget it.  I suck.  Where is the logic in this ridiculous thought?  Aren’t we teaching kids to be lifelong learners?  That it’s okay to make mistakes and admit that you don’t know the answer but you are okay as long as your are trying your best?   HELLO!  We need to take our own advice.  This theory applies to us too.  🙂

4. Rally the Troops.  I have some people.  These people are fellow teachers.  Some teach in my school and some are former co-workers from another school.  Some are personal friends who happen to be teachers in other schools or districts.  It doesn’t matter.  GO TO YOUR PEOPLE.  Tell them your problems.  Get it all out – they will listen to you.  And afterwards, they will either give you some chocolate, yell out into the void with you, or simply say, “Oh, sister (or brother).  I get it.  I totally get it.”  We cannot do this alone.

5. Think Summer.  Ah yes…Summer.  Those lazy days when you sleep until the light awakens you, and then you eat food that you actually get to digest while sitting at your kitchen table.  Afterwards you slip into your swimsuit and flip-flops, lather on the sunscreen, grab your towel and your trashy romance novel and HEAD FOR THE POOL.  If you have children of your own, you watch in amazement as they soak in the sunshine swimming, riding bikes, lying in an open field daydreaming, or following whatever adventure awaits them.  While non-teacher’s kids are at the babysitter’s or at summer school, you and your kids are going to the dollar movie with cheap popcorn and sodas.  I remember  one day last summer when I took my girls to the movies.  There we were, waiting for the movie to start, when in walks a group of school-age daycare kids, all in matching shirts, fearfully obeying the commands of their daycare leader.  Right then and there in my cushy theater chair with a sweet ray of sunshine on either side of me, I whispered a prayer of thanks that it was me taking my girls to the movies instead of someone else.

6. Lighten Up.  I know…easier said than done.  But these are kids we are dealing with here.  No matter what happens during their time with us, they are going to be okay.  They will figure it out.  If they don’t learn it from us, they will learn it eventually.  I had some great teachers in my school years, and I also had some crappy ones.  Didn’t we all?  And we lived to tell about it.  Trust me when I say that we are not the crappy teachers.  If we are struggling at all with the quality of our lesson plans, or fitting in all of the learning targets, or how to reach that one kid that seems to hate school, or staying up late or going in on weekends or spending our own money to make learning fun for our students, then we are NOT the crappy ones.

The best we can hope for, each day that we stand at the door with bright smiles and sharpened pencils, is to do the best we can.  And that has to be enough, people.  Otherwise we will never make it.  And we have to make it.  For them.  For us.  We have to remember that all we can do is the best we can.  That’s it.  And remember this:  At the end of the day, our job is not to fill the bucket.

It’s to LIGHT THE FIRE.

 

Missy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unlesson Planning

Dear Readers,

Okay, so “Unlesson” is not a real word.  But that’s what I did today. I did the opposite of planning lessons.  I brought home a few of my curriculum books to do some serious, intensive lesson planning today.  It did not happen.

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Here’s what I did instead:

  1.  Went to the dentist for a checkup.  (Good report, in case you were wondering.)
  2. Went to the library to check this book out:

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I already tried to read it once, but I just couldn’t get into it.  Then Ben and I watched the movie preview featuring Emily Blunt the other day, and now I can’t wait to see the movie.  But I really want to read the book first.  Lucky for me, the only edition they had at my local library was LARGE PRINT.  No vision correction needed.

3.   I took this little doll baby to the doctor for her three year check-up.

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She is bigger and taller than most kids her age, can spot a sailboat, a coffee cup, and a hand on the vision chart at 20 feet, and has a belly full of hard poop.  As a cherry on top, she hadn’t peed all day, and it was almost noon.  So we went home and I pulled out my bag of tricks to get her to go poop and pee on the potty.  None of them worked.  I cried.  Then I put her back in her pull-ups.  There’s always tomorrow.

4.  I laid down for a nap from potty training exhaustion.  An ambulance roaring through our neighborhood woke me up 20 minutes later.

5.  I read more about Rachel and Megan and Scott in The Girl on the Train and oh boy – things are getting really dicey 100 pages in.

6.   Charlotte and I went to get Amelia off the big yellow school bus.

7.  I met one of my dearest friends and former colleagues for dinner.  We talked for three hours.  I felt human again.   This friend happens to have married my husband and me and is my spiritual mentor.  I’m pretty sure there’s a special place for her in heaven.  Maybe a special chair.  Or a scepter.  I love her.

Now it’s 10:00 p.m. and there’s a better chance of me cracking open the covers of my bed than the cover of one of these books.

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Fortunately, as all good teachers know, there are just as many lessons to be learned (and planned) in the waking and the trying (and in my case today, the drinking wine and the crying.)

 

ZZZZZZZZ.

 

Missy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaping the Harvest

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

For twelve years at my old teaching job, I drove 45 minutes in steady traffic through many, many stoplights to get to school.  It wasn’t bumper to bumper, but it was white knuckle on the worst days.

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Now, to get to my new school, I drive on country roads.  I go through two stoplights.  And there are cows.  Horses and cows.  It looks something like this.

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Today, I drove past many a cow to get to an off-campus meeting with our school’s leadership team.  Representatives from our building sit around a great big table and meet with a consultant about how to improve relationships and culture and maximize learning for our students.  We take it pretty seriously, but we also have a lot of fun.  Then we go out to lunch together and actually get to chew our food (like the cows) because we are not on our regular school schedule.  (I have to admit that this is one of my favorite parts of leadership team.)  We talk about students and curriculum and dream out loud about all that is possible for the kids at our school.

At the end of the day today, we did an activity where we got to share one amazing thing about every person at our table – out loud for everyone to hear.  And then we got to go home.  I don’t know many people that wouldn’t walk a little taller after receiving compliments like that.  I did.

Most of us work really hard at jobs that are not always easy (more on this later).  But being recognized and acknowledged for the gifts we bring to the table is rare and immeasurably valuable.

I was given that gift today, and my heart is full and I am so grateful.  Not just because I get to look at cows now on my way to work instead of busy streets and stoplights, but because I get to work with an amazing group of educators who love what they do and would do anything to help the students in our school.

Today for me was the reaping of the harvest.  It was the blessing that comes with the work.

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And I am so grateful.

 

Missy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screw the Data

A teacher came to pick her kids up from my class today.  She was frustrated about some new grid they are making everyone fill out with some sort of data.   Hours and hours this will take.  Great.  Because classroom teachers don’t have enough stuff to do.  I empathized with her as I remembered the data that I too am required to take and enter on a grid at some point this year.  “When do we TEACH?!” she asked me with sad, hopeless eyes.  She is a veteran teacher.  I said I was sorry.

Flash back to this morning when I was driving in to school.  As I sat at a stoplight waiting for the light, I tried to pinpoint exactly what kind of mood I was in and what kind of music would match it.  I turned on Pandora Radio and found a 1990’s pop station (because it is the soundtrack to my adolescent/teenage/young adult LIFE) and this song came on.  And I sat up in my seat and my heart began to race and I cranked that mother freaking stereo UP and I ROCKED OUT.

Flash forward to my house this evening, where three out of the four of us (whoever is not on dishwashing duty) congregate after dinner.  No T.V. – just the radio and a wide open dance space.  And I turn Pandora on again.  And this song comes on.  And Amelia and I are yelling and jumping and wailing and spinning.  And sweating.  And she is doing her best to sing along even though she has no idea what we are listening to.  And for me it’s 1995 again and I am lost in the past and a sea of happiness.

Not once – NOT EVEN ONCE EVER IN MY SOUL – have I thought back on my life as a lover and a teacher and a conduit of music, and remembered how a test measured me up.  Screw the data.  If that makes me a crappy teacher, then so be it.  These kids growing up?  They have a soul too.  And it is dying a slow, pitiful death with every filled-in bubble and click of a mouse.

Long live the music!  Set the children free!  Give them an extra long recess and shove them down in the dirt and they will THANK US for it!

I dare you.  Go ahead now.

You Are Good.

Dear Readers,

Tonight, I have one simple message for you:  You Are Good.  Everything is good.  You are okay.  Everything is going to be okay.  Don’t we just need someone to tell us this every once in a while, like a best friend would?  Or a close family member?  Or even a stranger?  It doesn’t really matter.

I tend to live in a state of deep thought for at least 90% of my awake state.  Sometimes it’s a great thing, and sometimes it’s my worst enemy, being a deep thinker.  I tend to think deeply about everything, from my job to the dinner that I’m cooking to my parenting to going to the mailbox.  It’s something that I regularly have to try not to do.

When my wheels are turning like that, it inevitably leads to some sort of troubling thought, usually about something that I am (or am not) doing.  It’s not a “feel good” sort of thing.  It’s heavy.  It weighs me down.  And it takes up time that I could be spending enjoying life and being in the moment.

So let’s work together to say “It’s all going to be okay.”  I don’t think God wants us to feel troubled all of the time.  Let’s take a deep breath and smile and let the feel-good in because hey!  It’s Saturday night, and everything’s alright.

God is good, and we are okay.  Okay?  🙂

Okay.

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Missy

Recycle Me

Dear Readers,

Today a second grader hid in my recycle bin.  She just literally climbed on up in that big blue bin and copped a squat.  It was so big and she was so tiny that all I could see sticking out were these little eyes and the top of her head.  She sat there and watched me teach, and even allowed it when the other students did a project and brought their scraps over and sprinkled paper on top of her like confetti.  She was content, and so was I.

Just so you know, I wouldn’t let just any student of mine walk over and get in the recycling.    This was a special case.  This little girl has a lot of emotional issues, and she frequently melts down over things that most second graders wouldn’t bat an eye at.  When she is losing control emotionally, her coping mechanism is to hide.  On most days I can count on her hiding under the safe seat (which is where kids go when they need to figure out how to be safe and make good choices), under my desk, or under a table.  Today it was the recycling bin.

Maybe I let her stay in there because I was a little jealous.  This morning at my house was rough.  We were quickly jerked back into our stressful morning routine where hair was not combed, shoes were not on, and water bottles were not filled.  Rogue ice cubes flew into the sink as adult voices yelled, “GET YOUR COAT ON!”  “BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”  “TURN THAT LIGHT OFF!”  “HURRY UP AND GET IN THE CAR!”  By the time I dropped my kindergartener off at the house where she gets on the bus and drove toward school, I was already on the verge of having a meltdown myself.

Some days are hard.  Some days I wish I could hide too.

Just like the little girl in the recycling.

 

Missy

Gird Your Loins

Dear Readers,

 

It’s happening.  The kids.  They’re coming.

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Tomorrow they will flood the halls filled with all of the energy they stored up over the holiday break from sleeping in, being sloths, playing video games, watching movies, and eating ridiculous amounts of sugar.  They will complain at first about the wake ups and the nagging parents and the gym shoe and library book reminders.  But then they will think of how much they’ve missed their friends and how they long to have structure even though they don’t really know that they do.

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And teachers, we will be there to greet them.  We will give ourselves a pep talk as we hit the alarm and crawl out of bed, wondering how we will put an outfit together after we’ve been wearing mismatched sweats for two weeks.  We will slog ourselves into Starbucks (or in my case, QuikTrip) and grab a caffeinated beverage that will get us through until at least 10:00 a.m.  As we drive to school, we will remind ourselves why we chose this profession and how meaningful it is to us and them.  And there will always be another break around the corner to rescue us from unyielding exhaustion and depletion when it hits us in another two and a half months.

But for now, we are charged; ready to greet and meet those little (and not-so-little) minds right where they are.  For they love us, and we love them.  Every single backpack-wearing, lunch-toting, shoelace-dragging, helplessly smiling one of them.

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Vacation is over.  Welcome Back to School.

 

Missy

New Beginnings

Dear Readers,

Welcome to The Faithful Teacher.  I hope you will find something here that renews your spirit, encourages you, and helps you to grow.

As a teacher, I am always inspired to write about and share what is happening in my school  community and in the educational community at large.  Every day that I am alive and teaching creates a new opportunity for learning (for myself and my students!).   Because the school day is so hectic, there is little time to exchange resources with my colleagues – even in my own building.

As a wife and mother, I am constantly trying to find balance.  God gave me two beautiful children, and I believe that He did so because He knew that if I had been given three, I would have felt completely out of control.  (For those of you with three or more children, I stand in amazement of everything you do to keep the wheels turning.  BRAVO.)

As a Christian, I am humbled by the way God continues to teach me.  Every day.  He may not be shouting in my ear or holding up big signs, but he is nudging, whispering…calling.  As I grow older into my 36 year-old self, I feel closer than ever to the spirit inside that draws me further away from earthly things and tilts my gaze toward the things of heaven.

Since you are new here (and so am I), I would like to tell you what you will and won’t find here…but I can’t.  I can only tell you about the deep longing I have right at this moment to create something beautiful and hopeful and good.  I hope to connect with you and others in a way that makes us all feel the power that is bigger than all of us, and brings us together as one.

I hope you will visit every now and then.

Missy