Could You Stay?

It’s been quite some time since my last post. Today as I nurse myself back to health from a lingering cold, I figured it might be worth while to try to rid myself of more than just the bacteria wreaking havoc on my immune system. Perhaps I should release some of the stress I’m holding onto as well.

This marks my second year teaching in a new school, grade level, and subject. This year I’m teaching English to 7th graders. The curriculum is set, my room looks welcoming, and we’re off and running. Or at least it appeared that way. However, with each passing day it seems  harder and harder to stay on course. Again. Still.

I’ve been teaching for two decades. I know who I am as a teacher. I’ve learned about myself as an educator by reflecting daily on my teaching practices. I pride myself on the relationships that I build with my students every single year. I reach out to hundreds of teachers on social media to discuss the passion we feel about this profession. I’m constantly trying to understand the ways my students learn and the roads I need to take to ensure that they find real meaning in the lessons I teach so they can apply their understanding to the world. Most importantly, I seek to instill in them, a love of learning/reading. I know who I am as a teacher. My students have always known who I am.

Until now.

Many of my students today do not see me. They don’t hear me. They don’t seem to want to know me, hear me, or care. And because of this, there are days when even I cannot recognize the teacher in me. Instead of showering my students with passionate reviews about a new book I’ve read, I’m showering them with reminders and warnings and consequences to stay on task. To listen to the directions, to get their work done, to pick their heads off their desk, to stop swearing or talking back, etc. I’ve gone from being the passionate teacher, to the very frustrated teacher who walks among her students feeling out of place, sad and quite honestly, an outsider to the world they inhabit. But it’s never for lack of trying. I attend their games, listen to their music, eat lunch with them, attend outdoor ed overnight experiences, talk to their families, find heroes they can relate to, talk slang, learned to dab…in short, I seek constantly to understand their lives, despite their seeming disdain of mine.

Teaching in an urban setting is not for the faint of heart. Many colleagues have tried to offer me advice on building relationships with students. Several have attempted to help with classroom management. Believe me when I tell you how appreciative I am of this support. I approach each day with the belief that something good will occur. I have not given up.

But today what I need is some honest answers. Because there’s a question raging in my heart. Some of you may not understand and/or like the question because you cannot imagine what it’s like to teach in a place where students don’t value an education. Where students don’t read. Where 7th graders are reading at a second grade level, but it’s not a special ed class, it’s a regular class of 25. Where students talk back, swear, and threaten teachers. Where administrators are seen screaming at students only to be laughed at, and ignored. Try picturing this place, or yourself in it. Place yourself – the teacher you know you are, in this place. A place where what makes you – you, is ignored, mocked, and disrespected. Imagine yourself there every day. And answer this question as honestly as you can. What happens when you’re a passionate teacher, but you’re faced with students who are apathetic toward school / learning? Apathetic toward you, the teacher, and all you believe and hold dear about education? Apathetic about classroom rules, expectations and consequences? Do you think you would be able to stay in that place? A place that leaves you stressed and sad? Every. Single. Day. 

Okay, so that was more than one question, but you get the gist. Just curious… do you think you could stay??

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Luck

Throughout most of my life I’ve felt lucky. Lucky to be alive and healthy, lucky for my family and friends, and lucky for my job opportunities. I’d often experience events and wonder why fate, God, or the universe decided to bless me with such good fortune. It was especially notable when I witnessed the opposite  occurring for my older brother. He, it appeared, seemed to walk under a black cloud while I seemed to catch every ray of sunshine. Growing up, it seemed effortless, like serendipity…

  
Lately however, the events in my life have shifted. No longer do those rays of golden sun shine as brightly for me. Job opportunities have dwindled, friends and family are far away, and minor health issues have plagued me. So the question that’s been weighing on my mind is this:

Does a person’s luck run out? 

Some may say that luck has nothing to do with the events in our lives- that we create the life we seek. If we think positively, stay true to our passions, and do good in this world, we shall reap the rewards. And when troubles arise, we need only look for the positive. So the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Simple. 

I’m a firm believer that things in life happen for a reason. Up until now I’ve always found it easy to follow this mantra because every turn in my life’s journey seemed to lead me to a better place. But what happens when you take a turn on the road and no sunshine guides your feet on that path? You stumble along in darkness wondering where you’re headed, trying to find your way, thinking you should turn back. You tell yourself over and over to keep going, that there has to be a reason that you’re on this particular journey. Where you once walked with confidence and joy, you now tread with fear and doubt. Walking alone in the dark is not familiar to me. I don’t like it. I question my decisions. I long for a hand to reach out to me in the darkness. Some days I want to give up. 

But I don’t.

I’m working harder today than I ever have to find the light again. And believe me I’m searching every single day, because I can no longer leave my fate up to chance. I will fight to find my way out of the darkness, with or without luck on my side. 

 

The F Word

Patience. Optimism. Perserverance. I’ve written about all of these concepts in some form or another lately, but today I’m writing about a very different word. One that’s frowned upon in many of my professional circles. A forbidden word.

The F word.

Frustration. (I know I scared some of you for a second there). Anyone who has ever been unemployed, and had to job search knows the feelings that come with rejection. These feelings are part of the process, and should ultimately help you to become more driven, passionate and focused in regards to finding that perfect job. But today, after receiving yet another rejection notification, I’m not feeling motivated in the least. Instead, I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad. It’s left me feeling short on patience and confidence. In a word, I’m frustrated.


“Chin up, something will come along soon.” “Do what makes you happy.” “You are talented- you have so many options.” I’ve heard all the positive anecdotes from family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve sold many  such promises to myself over the past months in the hopes of reinforcing a positive outcome. And every single time I think I’ve finally found the perfect job – one that meshes with my experience and my passion; one that I know I’m perfectly suited for, you guessed it… I receive another rejection. I can only be left to wonder what other applicants put forth, and what I lack. My rejections are followed up with questions asking what I might have improved upon in order to increase my chances of getting hired next time, yet most companies rarely take the time to explicitly answer these requests.

I’m frustrated because no matter how much experience I have, how well read I am, or how many connections I make, the doors keep closing on every opportunity I seek to pursue. It makes me question my beliefs about myself, about who I am as a professional, my worth, my dreams… This process has left me feeling lost. Each time I pull myself back up, I get knocked back down, and can’t help but question why. I’m certainly not the first person to seek  new opportunities within a chosen field, yet my unsuccessful attempts make me wonder if such a move is in the cards for me. These doubts lead to the frustration of which I write about today. I don’t want to remain stuck, trapped, or without options, yet this is exactly how my circumstances have left me feeling.


I know that many of my friends who will read this piece will kindly reach out with words of encouragement. Rest assured that your advice has not fallen on deaf ears. I know I wouldn’t have survived these past months with your constant support, and I wonder daily how I will ever repay you. For those of you who think I’ve complained far too long about the whole relocating/ seeking a job ordeal, I agree. I’m tired of myself. I get it. It’s … frustrating. However, this post was not written as a means to garner pity, or to apologize. It was written simply for this writer to release some raw emotions. Out of frustration.

#OneWord – Peace

My #OneWord for 2016 has to be peace. With the events going on around the world lately, most of us think about peace in the sense of being free from war. While I do wish for peace on Earth, I’m selfishly hoping for my own slice of peace in 2016. I’ve recently written about patience, but I think for me, the New Year will be more about persevering in uncomfortable circumstances, about not giving up, and ultimately finding peace in that decision. 

The journey of my life in recent months has taken me far from the familiar path I once knew. I’ve had to navigate past several obstacles, and I’m still not certain that this new road I’m on is leading me in the proper direction. I fear I may have veered off course. It feels scary to be this lost. However, instead of staying stuck or running back to where I started, I know I need to keep moving forward despite the voices that are telling me to give up. And believe me, the voices are loud. They tempt and goad me when I’m at my weakest. 

So as 2016 commences I’m trying my hardest to push past the negative voices and be at peace with what lies ahead in the new year. I will persevere and keep moving forward no matter how easy it would be to just give up. I have to believe that finding tranquility will lead me back to the life I know I’m meant to live. Honestly, I’m not looking forward to the first few weeks of this new year because I know how difficult things are going to be. I know I’m going to have to dig deeper than ever before to find the quiet. 

  
Lucky for me, I have the constant love and support from family, friends and my PLN to keep me on course.

Happy PEACEFUL New Year

Who Am I?

The start of a new school year is rapidly approaching. In fact, some localities have already gone back. As a teacher, this is an exciting time of year. After a summer of recharging, I always feel ready to greet my new students, and eager to engage them in new and exciting ways. With this time of year also comes the bittersweet end to lazy summer days, warm weather and let’s face it, less stress. 

This year is different. For the first time in almost 20 years, I do not have class rosters, schedules, supplies, or meetings to attend. I have no students. I have no classroom. Thus the consequence of relocating in mid August to a different state. Having filed for a new teacher license, and filled out the lengthy application forms, I wonder what happens next. My bio on social media says that I am a teacher. I have credentials, references, recommendations, books, boxes, bins, and experience to prove my worth. Yet in the area where I now reside, school starts in just a mere 5 days. Sadly I will not be among the masses who will wake up early on Monday morning ready to enter the halls of one of these fine schools. 

So as I reflect on all the changes that have occurred for my family and I these past 3-4 months, I am left to ponder who I am, if not a teacher. The saying goes, ‘Once a teacher, always a teacher’, which to some extent is true. However, in the face of unemployment, it can be difficult not to question one’s worth outside of the field of this noble profession. Should I not gain employment as an educator, what does that mean? Am I defined only by my role as a teacher? And if I am not employed, who am I? 

Self-reflection and change are good for the soul. I know this to be true. So I am open to the possibilities that will come my way. After all, in the world of education one should never be resistant to change. So, who am I? I am, and always will be a teacher. Perhaps not in the traditional sense right now, but I remain open to all the possibilities that await me …

Unsteady Currents

Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Ins and outs. Such are the unsteady currents of my life. Where I once knew tranquility and peace, I now find myself feeling lost at sea. I long for the days when I returned from work with feelings of accomplishment. Instead, I now find myself feeling depleted and spent. At times I dislike the person I’ve become-(quick tempered, defensive). So I’m left to ponder, will I ever get back to the serenity I once knew? Are those days out of my grasp? Should I have to work so hard to find peace in my life where it once flowed so naturally? Is this what some would call a mid-life crisis? Why can’t a day that starts off great, end in the same fashion? Why is there always something that sends me adrift???

I have been questioning, thinking, reading, writing, and listening in an attempt to seek answers. For every day that I feel renewed in spirit, there always seems to be another day where I feel defeated. I’m trying desperately to ride these waves, but I much prefer the still waters of bygone days…