|Twin Day at school.|
And now... I'm going to blog about good stuff. Or at least, the good side of the bad stuff.
At our last staff meeting, we had long, deep discussion about our personal goals, our professional goals, our goals for our students, and our goals for our school. Then, we were asked to write an 'intention' for ourselves on a little notecard. An intention is a step that we promise to take in order to meet one of our goals. Mine was: "Come every day. Laugh every day*." (*By "every day", I meant every day from then until the end of the school year".)
Come every day.
I wrote this as my intention because... well, for one, I'm all out of sick days and paid time off. Whoops. I also wrote that intention because I've had a few moments here and there in the past couple of weeks when I didn't want to come to school--or I was at school and I wanted to call in sick for the rest of the afternoon and go home--but I stayed anyway. Sure, I stayed because I had no more PTO... but I stayed--and I survived. The roof did not come down. The lessons were--as I had feared--utter shit... but we all got through it. I even had a few itsy, bitsy, teensy, tiny 'wins' in the day, even if the wins weren't lesson related.
One minor 'win' I'll claim for myself was the time I was walking back and forth with my class in the little parking lot of our school with students (or, as we call it at our school, "P.E."), tapping one fence, only to turn around and tap the other fence, and then turn around and do it all over again. One student fell into step with me to my right--his left elbow resting on my right shoulder--and told me all about his past: how he failed out of 10th grade at his old school, how he got into trouble doing things he didn't want to do with kids he shouldn't have been hanging around with, and how he was proud of himself for turning himself around this past year with a fresh start at our school. I don't know why he chose to tell me his story or why he felt compelled to in that moment, but I was glad that I could be there for him, even if just to listen to him reflect on his recent obstacles and achievements.
Ultimately, in all those days that I felt run down, pathetic, tired, or like a terrible teacher, I was proud of myself for staying and for not calling it quits for the day. Dat's grit, yo.
I sometimes wish that I had more grit. I think that my colleagues have a lot of grit. I know that my students have a hell of a lot of grit. I know that I deal with anxiety (that I place on myself) and that sometimes, even if external circumstances seem stable or nonthreatening enough, I sometimes cave under the pressure and push and pull and mental storm tornado-ing around in my head and that sometimes my grit is spent from dealing with that and nothing all that bad actually happened in the day. And, ok, fine, I really can't compare how much grit I have with how much another person has. But sometimes, in those days when I do give up and stay/go home, I feel ashamed, like I have no grit whatsoever. (Cue my mentor coming in and telling me that it's OK to get tired and take breaks and sometimes, you REALLY ARE SICK.)
Anyway, I've been practicing pushing through hard days--all year, really. I've gotten better and better at it recently. In fact, I've been give up-free for something like 2 months now. That's a personal best!
Laugh every day.
I wrote this as my intention because I only ever love my job 1) when I get to laugh or 2) when kids beam with pride when they have an a-ha! moment. #2 is difficult to control, so I focused on #1.
I freaking love laughing with my kids. I don't consider myself a very funny person, but it turns out I'm pretty funny to some of my kids, and a lot of my kids are hella funny. I found that by some fluke, I can slightly twist and manipulate the mood of a class using my own mood. I sometimes fake a good mood to lift the mood of a class. All it takes is a laugh, a smile, a joke, maybe a little bit of innocent teasing and suddenly, the hardship of take-out-your-earphones/ do-this, do-that/ why-haven't-you-done-that-yet disappears! ...nay, becomes more bearable.
Come every day. Laugh every day.
Apparently, according to some staff and other students, amongst all the various reputations I'm sure that I have depending on which student you ask, one of my reputations is one of an 'excitable' teacher. Students sit up straighter and get a bit show-offier whenever I excitedly praise student work. "Yes! That's it! Yesyesyesyesyes! A thousands times yes! Look, you got it! You totally get it! I'm so happy!!!!" (<-- Literally all words I have said today.)
In their English class, I caught wind that some students wrote a story about me that went something like: One day, April was circulating the room, looking at student work. Suddenly, April got so excited about some student's work that she started to lift off the ground and actually start flying and whirling around the room.
Speaking of reputations, one time, a kid--one who's not in any of my classes--randomly plopped down in an open seat next to me and stared at me thoughtfully for a moment. I regarded her for half a second before returning to my lunch of a dry granola bar from the school pantry and room temperature tap water (ah, the glamour of teacher lunches). Breaking the silence, she said to me in an accusing tone, "So, April (we go by first names at our school).......... I hear you're a good teacher." "Is that true?" she demanded. I was taken aback; I sputtered something along the lines of "who's spreading such lies?!"
Also, every now and then, a student will cut class and crash one of my classes to talk to me; when I send them out, they say "aw, come on, I just wanted to visit my favorite teacher".
Yes, these little knuckleheads very well may be yanking my chain, but they're sincere kids who try hard in school and who really have nothing to gain by sucking up to me. And yes, it's true that our tiny little school means that each kid really only has 3-4 teachers who they see repeatedly for different classes throughout the day, so even if I genuinely was a kid's favorite teacher, I'd only be best of, like, three. And all of our teachers are rockstars, so I wouldn't even be their favorite by much.
However, I do think that I've been pretty good about planting seeds of a good reputation for myself simply by consistently coming to school and being there for the kids. I always try to keep things light-hearted... while I beat them over the head with boring worksheets and textbook assignments.
Not all days are unicorns and rainbows, of course. Today, a student shouted at me across the classroom, in front of the whole class, "are you going to make us do another boring thing today like you do every day in all your classes?"
Uh. Yes. *clicks 'Play' on yet another Netflix documentary about obesity in America*
That comment totally hit me where it hurt because I'm super self-conscious of my lessons and I reallyreallyreally want my lessons to be better... but what I got is all I've got, and it's all I can do in order to be sustainable and keep coming every day. To be honest, I almost started crying when he said that. I didn't, though (because one time, when I almost started crying, another student said-- loudly, in an exasperated voice--"aw man, are you going to start crying again?"); instead, all I said was "[Student] that hurt my feelings" and left it at that. I didn't send him to the office or anything. I didn't want to turn that moment into a power play; I just wanted to run past the comment and leave it in the past. I noticed many students duck their heads and avoid eye contact, sensing the awkwardness of the situation.
The next moment, of course, as I was praising that same student's seat mate's work, Mr."Your-Class-is-Boring" hissed at his seat mate, "hey, give me a piece of your paper" and then jotted down some notes of his own. He then called me over and proudly showed me his work and waited for his praise. He then proceeded to be on-point for the rest of class.
Anyway, that's my update. Happy end-of-April. I'm making it. I've grown lightyears personally. I've grown micrometers professionally. I'm proud of having a hard job. I'm looking forward to one day being good at my job... or at least having fun along the way.