"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One More Year

A new school year is about to start. For parents this means regained hours of freedom as kids go back into classrooms for a big chunk of the day. For those of us who are about to welcome those kids into our classrooms and into our hearts, this means a sudden and severe curtailment of freedom.

For the last two weeks, I've been going in to school to get my room ready, and to try to get myself ready - to ease myself back into the confinement of a tightly scheduled life. Two days last week were spent sitting in math training - to prepare us for the latest I (and we're told the absolute last) pendulum swing of math instruction. The first two days of this coming week will be spent sitting in staff meetings and welcoming my new charges at open house. 

My room is ready. I've reconnected with my team and other colleagues. I've written twenty-five new names at least a dozen times - welcoming postcards, bookmarks, desk names, rosters, lunch chart, on and on and on. If the kids came tomorrow, all systems are go and the room is ready to receive them.

I'm about to welcome my twenty-first class. 

I don't want to. 

I don't want to spend the next two days listening to the long lists of new things we're expected to do with not enough time or resources to do them with. I didn't appreciate the two days of training that were just like the last two decades of trainings I've sat through - the latest new thing to solve everything before we've had a chance to really learn the last latest new thing. I don't want to spend the evening before the first day of school meeting my new families and receiving the piles of school supplies they're all out buying as I write this. I don't want to spend my prime energy in this way any longer. 

It sounds so harsh to say. If I were one of my parents reading this I would be concerned. My heart is not in public education. My heart has headed in a whole new direction in the last couple of years, and it's not happy to be held back. We, my heart and soul and I, were going to be done with teaching elementary school last year. Life and economics decided otherwise.

And so for one more year, I am an elementary school teacher. I don't know why. I do know it's where I'm meant to be. I believe - I need to believe - that when I learn the lesson this job has to teach, I will be finally be freed to travel where my heart is leading me. I pray that this will be the year.

Here are my teacher goals for this year: To love my kids. To do all I can to help them feel that love. To be kind, compassionate, forgiving - even (or especially) when it's hard. To have fun. To find a way to get more energy than I lose. To be. To not work so hard. To not worry so much.

Here are not my teacher goals for this year: To fix anyone. To get good scores on the state assessment. To impress anyone with anything. To fit in and belong. 

I had my first student encounter last week. Joe and his sister Maddie, who was in my room two years ago, came by while I was working in my room. I got great hugs from both kids and they came in for a visit. Maddie is one of my all time favorite people. Joe is mine this year. 

"I burp a lot." This out of the blue, and offered as a friendly challenge.

"Well, I hope you won't be burping during class."

"But I can't help it. The burps just come out."

I've had this conversation a time or two before, with boys much like Joe. "Sure you can help it. My youngest brother is the world's champion burper. He swallows more air than anyone I've ever seen." 

"Do you want to hear me burp?" I've got him now. The challenge has been reversed.


The burp is nicely loud, but short in duration. I tell Joe this. "My brother can burp ten times louder and longer than that."

"It was just a practice burp. I can do better. Listen."

He does in fact double both volume and duration, and I praise his efforts. By this time he's done with the whole burping thing. I'm having fun, delighted that I've been able to surprise him, and for the first time feeling a spark of something resembling anticipation for the year.

During the sleepless and restless nights that consume my last hours of freedom relentlessly, I try to replay  that conversation. It contains all I want for the year. Now if I can only do that with all twenty-five of my new babies. And come home at the end of my days with enough energy to give my heart its deepest desire.

photo by another sergio from Flickr


kario said...

I am commiserating with the preparation for a busy year! I can't wait for it to actually start, already!

I am so proud of you for knowing what you want and making clear goals. I do feel, though, that there is a reason you'll be in the classroom this year. I have a feeling that there's something strong coming that will make you thankful for this one last year.

Love you!

M said...

I loved this post!! I can feel how hard it is for you to go back into the classroom for another year, but it brings my heart such joy that it's the system that causes the hesitancy...and not what you do with the kids. I encourage you to remember that during all of the hard times this school year. You are an incredible teacher...and every one of your kids will benefit from having Mrs. Shucka as their teacher this year. When the year is over in June, you will have another set of memories of twenty-five beautiful young people that you have helped to mold...it doesn't get any better than that. Plus...I'm sure we will all benefit from some stories about those youngsters.

I pray you have a wonderful year.


FrecklesandDeb said...

I know you will do it because that's who you are and have become -- someone who is compassionate and loving. You don't have to fix anyone. Just be you -- that's who this batch of lucky kids need.

One day at a time...

Nancy said...

This is so beautifully honest. I am not sure at all that people are intended to the the same thing for their entire adult lives and perhpaps your time has some.

But I agree with Kairo that there is a reason for this year. No accidents. This year was meant to be and starting it off with a burping challenge says you are in the right place for all it has to offer!

Jerri said...

You may be finished with teaching, but it clearly is not finished with you.

Who knows what will come of this year. Perhaps you hold a key to something one of those 25 children are meant to learn or be or do.

The only thing we can know for sure is that the goals you've outlined here are loving and wise. The not goals, too.

Blessings for this year, Deb. Blessings for your dreams and heart wishes, too.

She said...

I so hear you! I love the things that are not your goals, and I've just stolen them and am taking them as my own "not goals" for this year.

I woke this morning with the "oh my, it's my last week of vacation feeling" and turned over and went back to sleep!!!

25 kids, huh! I will be meeting 180 next week, and I'd rather do that than teach all of those subjects you have to teach! :)

Love you.

Suzy said...

Great post. I think we are thinking the same exact thing....

LOVE my job, but....there is something else out there and we both know what it is. I'm on the same path.

Thanks for keeping me company on this journey.

Love you,

Eileen said...

This is an amazing post, and I so understand. I was surprised to hear that you were going back, because I too thought last year was your final year.

Everything you said rings so true to me and to my teacher friends who I work with. The anxiety dreams have started and the motions begin.

I love your goals. I love that you are an amazing teacher and will give your children one of the best teaching experiences of their lives.

I so appreciate your honesty and hope this year holds new blessings and unexpected joys.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

You just summed up why I don't miss teaching. Not. One. Bit. This will be your last year, I believe that wholeheartedly, I also think it will be your best. Your goals, and un-goals, ROCK!


Eileen said...

Hi Deb,
Me again, I wanted you to know I finally caught on camera the beautiful heron! I put the photo on my blog. That has been the most difficult bird to catch on camera. I felt so good! They are so beautiful!
Good luck this week with the kids and those staff meetings. I start tomorrow.


priley said...

There is no doubt in my mind, Deb, that your year of teaching was meant soley for me and my family, and for my Joe, champion burper. After our three hour long lunch at Bamboo Hut, where I shared my ten thousand concerns about him, it is no mistake you ended up as his teacher, in addition to one of Maddie's favorite people in the whole world, and one of my most cherished friends!!

With this year behind us, I can honestly say that this summer, I do not need a three hour long lunch to discuss what to do about Joe. He needed you. He got you. You are a blessing to our family. We love you!!! Best wishes as you follow your dreams.