Today is the last day of school. It is also the last year I will have a classroom to pack up. I’ll be moving into an office. I have a new opportunity as the instructional coach for our school. I’m honored that my admin thinks I can do the job. But, isn’t there always a ‘but’? Is it me, or is it every time something new and positive happens, that little nasty “you can’t do it” voice jumps out every chance she can get. I mean can’t she take a day off? For the love..
I’ve been a teacher for almost 20 years. Although I’ve had many roles as an educator, I’ve never gone a year without teaching students. I will be working with teachers. I went back for my specialist degree to torture myself since I’m a graduate-school masochist. No, really, I went back to get my degree in teacher leadership. My goal was to make a difference and to advocate for teachers and to end war and famine. The latter objectives weren’t on the description of the degree, but they were implied.
As a new teacher, back in 2000, I didn’t even know where I needed support. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My first year of teaching, colleagues would stop by, look around my room, and see sheer dread and utter confusion on my face. Students may or may not have been hiding from me. I have blocked some of that year out.
I was drowning in a sea of SSTs, poorly distributed desks, and holiday parties. I was previously a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. I taught, in a way, but those folks paid me then drove themselves home. I didn’t need to walk them everywhere or make sure they got on the right bus or in the right car. None of them pooped themselves or needed me to open ketchup packets.
My first day of teaching was the winter holiday party in a second-grade classroom. There were so many little people, all doing different things and needing me for various reasons. Mostly, there was glitter….everywhere. I can’t think of a time where I was more unsure of myself or when I felt more like a failure.
One day, my friend Jen came to my room and said, “It looks like your desks fell from out of the sky and randomly landed. Would you like some help in putting the desks into cooperative groups?” I had no idea what cooperative grouping of desks was, but it sounded really good-like kids would suddenly cooperate once the desks were in fancy research-based groups. Just seeing my classroom more organized made my brain more organized. The dynamics of my class drastically changed. What Jen did, changed my mindset. I had some control. I didn’t know a damn thing about instruction, but I had a starting point. Those few minutes, she gave me changed the orbit of my teaching career.
Have you ever been so lost that an infinitesimal altering of perspective changes everything? I wanted to do for teachers what Jen and so many friends did for me. I was in a safe place, and people were kind and gracious. I grew in my craft. I wanted more. I was bitten by the education bug.
Teaching is a vast freaking task. It is difficult and can be ugly and disappointing. There have been days where I sat in my car, before school, contemplating the day and hoping not to screw something up, upset parents, or disappoint those who (at one point ) thought I was a good teacher.
When teachers make mistakes, we make them in front of a bunch of people-students, teachers, parents, and/or administrators. It’s not like you accidentally put salt in cake batter instead of sugar. Hell, you just throw out that lousy batter. You can do this alone, with no one looking or judging. There was a time I attempted to make a Bundt cake, but I was supposed to snap or connect the pan to itself, and the batter drained out of the oven and on to the floor. I did clean it up and bought a less complicated pan. But when a long division or a The Crucible allegory to McCarthyism lesson is tanking, and students are cross-eyed with confusion, you can’t throw that out, but you can try to clean it up.
Today, I was doing the annual scavenger hunt for the folks on the end of year check out list. As I was avoiding death or severe injury rolling my Chrome Book cart out of the trailer, down the ramp, and cumbersomely into the building (A colleague came to help me. Otherwise, I would have been cursing under my breath trying to roll the cart over the threshold of the door whilst avoiding smashing my toes with it.) I thought, “I am so glad I’m not one of the people on the check out list for whom everyone is looking.” That job kind of sucks. I would want to hide or scurry away from everyone. I was proud of my moment of gratitude. This is an aside since I’m attempting to be grateful for stuff every day. I was also thankful to Amber for rescuing me from the Chrome book cart. The voice of unreason began speaking, and she said, “Dude, I bet you will be someone who has to check off crap next year.” She may be right.
At 50, the doubt doesn’t dissipate. It still reaches out and tells me the bad stuff that could happen. But, risk-taking is what keeps us alive and striving for a better life. At 50, I know how to tell doubt off. Sometimes it rolls its eyes at me or gives me the finger. I’m not scared of it anymore. It’s there and I know it exists, but I also know that hope exists. I’ve accomplished some cool stuff. I’m not an extreme expert on anything, but I have fought the doubt and focused on the end goal with some success. Doubt never apologizes, it’s just happy to have sucked the life out of us for a bit. I hope to do a good job next year. I hope to develop relationships with my colleagues. I hope to kick doubt’s ass.
Thank you JEN ROBERTS for taking the time to help me. I think of you always and with much love and appreciation.