"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

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Different View



When I drove into the parking lot of school this morning, I was grateful to see there were no other cars. My first day back after two years away, and I struggled to quiet the fear and anxiety that grew louder during my drive from home, like a geiger counter approaching uranium. I pulled around to the back of the building, just outside my room, and let myself in as quietly as possible. Almost like I was sneaking in, shy to be there.

I'd been prepared for the worst. Expecting dregs as far as furniture and supplies, knowing that all the good stuff would have been scavenged by other teachers at the end of last year. It wasn't the worst, but neither was it good. As I stood in the middle of the room, adjusting to the reality of what I had to work with, I noticed the floors weren't clean.

 My original plan had been to go in last week and get started with set-up and planning. I wanted to work my way back into the groove slowly, a few hours at a time. That was derailed by a last-minute directive from our principal to stay out of the building until today, because the custodians needed the extra time to finish the floors.

My initial reaction was to ignore the message and go in anyway. I was mad at the restriction after having been told I could go in early, then upset that my first contact with the new year resulted in my being mad. After listening to the calm counsel of a thoughtful friend, I decided it was wiser (and easier) to accept the change. The result was an extra week of freedom: time with friends, soaking up sun, reading, finishing home projects.

Today I expected to put in a full day to make up for the time I lost last week. But uncleaned carpets and unpolished tiles meant I was stymied. At first I considered moving in anyway, pretending I didn't know the floors weren't done. There was a time when I would have done just that, justifying my actions with  my need and the promised completion time.

Instead I went in search of the custodian and information.

As I tracked the sound of her footsteps, I reminded myself to stay focused on what is important and what is not. What matters is relationship, balance, and kindness. Anything attempted or gained through any other means is poisoned. It's not personal. Not about me in any way. None of it. The only thing that's about me is how I respond to what's presented.

When I found her, she seemed surprised to see me in the building, but was friendly. She's new since I was last there. Her name is Glinda (yes, like the Good Witch—I asked), which made me like her instantly. I had to restrain myself from interviewing her on the spot, but I look forward to learning what has to be a wonderful story, both about how she got her name and how it's influenced her life. Instead I asked about the floors, and learned the crew had lost three weeks of work time this summer because of circumstances beyond their control. I explained my time issues. She told me she'd get my carpet done today. I can move in tomorrow.

So I got my soft entry back to school, found the start to an intriguing new story, and gained one more day of freedom.  More importantly, I got to see what happens when I shift my view of things just a little. When I choose not to listen to the voice that tells me to fight, and instead seek understanding and connection.

Tomorrow, I'm sure there will be many more opportunities for me to choose the softer view as I begin my search for furniture.


31 comments:

Niki said...

Praying the days ahead go smoothly for you. Looking forward to hearing about Glinda :)
blessings,
Niki

DJan said...

Me, too, Deb. I look forward to this new adventure of yours and where it all leads. You remind me again how glad I am to be free of all this at last.

#1Nana said...

You're off to a good start. I have to admit to the clenching of my stomach as I read your piece. I realize that it was relief that I don't have to go back to what is sometimes a hostile environment. You're right that the change of perspective helps...but, isn't hard to always be the bigger person?
Once your students get there it will be great. I wish you all the best at the start of this adventure.
Jann

Linda Hoye said...

I constantly have to remind myself at work that it is the relationships that what's important, Sounds like you have already been working on cultivating a view of what matters and what doesn't. Best of luck to you on this journey.

Barb said...

Oh - you wise Owl! Surely with your philosophy, this will be a magical year for you. (Perhaps the Good Witch will be on your side.)

yaya said...

Many times I get the mad part out before my brain kicks in to just take it in stride. I see you are becoming "zen like" in your approach! I know your year will be good and that owl is amazing! Good luck in getting your room ready. With the "good witch" there you might be tempted to click your heels together and chant "there's no place like home..there's no place like home.....

Retired English Teacher said...

No one except a teacher understands how frustrating such beginnings can be. I've had my share of experiences just like this. You handled it just right. I once was the new teacher who was left without even a paper clip in the desk. Everything, and I mean everything, had been picked clean out of the room.

My husband always told me that the most important person to make friends with is the custodian. He was right. Unfortunately, they are also are under so much pressure this time of year and are up against powers that are beyond their control also. I think Glinda will most likely become one of the stalwarts standing in your corner with you. I guess time will tell.

Sandi said...

Oh rats! Not at all what you were hoping for! But, good for you for keeping a clear focus and making friends with the custodian! You will be needing her on your side while seeking decent furniture!
I'm wishing you sunshine and lightness tomorrow as you tackle the room and begin to make it your own. Remember your first year at Riverview in the computer room? You are going to be a shining beacon of light in your building!

Wanda said...

I so look forward to hearing your new stories and adventures. I'm sure the kids will love having you for a teacher--and who knows how many lives you will touch, including Glinda's. (Love the owl...front and back.)

Desiree said...

It's amazing how much more we are able to accomplish by shifting our perspective. There's wisdom in the saying you catch more flies with honey. So glad you had your extra week and now, an extra day of Grace. I am sure you will soon settle into a rhythm. Looking forward to lots of stories as I just know you are going to find a wealth of material.

Pam said...

Your patience is shining through already, a quality needed in copious amounts in the teaching profession! Well done Deb, and all the best as you prepare for this new adventure.

Journaling Woman said...

I think I go into things sternly just so others won't get the first punch, but that's no way to live.

I'm praying all goes well. You're off to a good start.

Wanda..... said...

It would be nice to start with a clean slate so to speak...hope you enjoy making the room your own and that it will be filled with all 'eager' children.

Dee Ready said...

Deb, I read your posting and all the comments with great interest and growing appreciation for all those who treasure your words and wisdom.

What I discovered is that your Zen-ness--as yaya said--made a bad beginning into a posting that lifts all our spirits about the possibilities of this year for you.

New relationships will blossom--you already have the beginning of one with Glinda!--and you will most likely end up cherishing this year. It will provide you with many postings for this blog. It will stretch your soul. That is my hope for you and for all of us.

Carol@The Writers Porch said...

Good for you Deb! May God continue to give you wisdom and bless this journey your on! XO

deborahjbarker said...

How right you are to follow the softer viewpoint. Just as a smile can change the way you feel and the way people see you, so too can a deep breath change the way you perceive a situation. I loved reading your account - It rang a few bells with me! ;-)

kario said...

You are a wonder, my friend. I love that you recognize the fact that you got exactly what you asked the Universe for - a soft re-entry. I suspect that your classroom set up will go smoothly and quickly and those vibes will be apparent to the kids as they file in on the first day.

Love.

Stacy Crawford said...

Wise. Kyle always tells me about a poem he loved when he was little. The custodian is always the person I want to be on the good side.

"There was and old owl who lived in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can't we all be like that wise old bird."

I thought you'd appreciate that poem. :)

Happy begining of the year. I'm right there working with you.

Donna said...

Reading your frustration I thought, "but Deb is incredibly organized and this will go well no matter what". It did end well with Glinda but this I know from reading you for a while now, you are wonderfully adaptive to MANY diverse situations and always overcome them. It WILL be a good year, I'm sure of it!!

Terry said...

I am so glad you posted this. I too struggle with maintaining calm in situations such as these and I congratulate you on achieving it! As a social worker, I often get impatient and find that approaching it with calm is sooo helpful if only I controlled myself !

Mark Lyons said...

I love the story...and ways that you've changed over the past few years. I'd call it maturity, but we all know "experienced" people who seem to choose NOT to mature. Rather, I'd call growth. A softening. A realization that sometimes the only person who gets hurt in the fight is the one who is fighting. The stress isn't worth it, because it rarely changes anything.

I know that you're going to have a great year...that as always, you will find kids to love and new stories to tell. Fifth graders in your class will look back years from now and remember that incredible Mrs. Shucka that was the best teacher they ever had.

Have a GREAT year.

I love you
Mark

Jessica Nelson said...

Yay! She sounds like a nice lady. :-) I guess today is your first day back. I hope it went well!

Linda Myers said...

A soft reentry. What a lovely term!

I can see a class full of curious children with you as their guide.

Lilith said...

Hope the year goes well for you Deb. Sounds like it got off to a good, if somewhat different start than you had imagined.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

I love the term "softer view."
You definitely chose right. I am still at the point where I really have to think things through and try to choose the softer view.
Our time on earth is so limited that choosing the harder view only makes things harder on ourselves.

I'm working myself back into being well and it's been a challenge. But I'm trying to choose the softer view when thinking of myself and I believe I'm where I'm supposed to be.
Bless this school year for you! I bet you are a great teacher. It comes through in your writing! Barb

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh all the new mixed with the old and every little thought and thing that goes with it!

but, lucky students they are . . .

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Your apparent eagerness to go back to work is encouraging. By now, you must have been immersed in your teaching and enjoying every minute of it.
I'm looking forward to sharing us your new school adventures.

Julia said...

Breathe
Breathe
Breathe

I Love You!

Katie Gates said...

What a great post, Deb, including the photos that serve as bookends and illustrate your message so beautifully. I loved this line: "The only thing that's about me is how I respond to what's presented." Actually, I loved all the words, but that sentence was the stand-out, probably because it's one of those valuable lessons I sometimes forget...

Terri Tiffany said...

So much has gone on with you since I have stopped blogging! I have missed your warmth in words.SO you are back to teaching?? Wow. I pray it goes wonderful and look forward to reading about it.Be patient with me as I go through this move but I will be back!

Kathryn Grace said...

What a wonderful teacher you are, showing us the way to compassion and self-love as well as other-love. Had you responded with the old ways you describe, you'd have been injured. Instead, you softened into the situation and, from here looking in, it seems you were healed and the rooms of your life expanded somehow.

This is helpful to me today, especially, because I am dealing with a sticky situation. I hope to keep your gentle, thoughtful response to your situation in mind as I respond to this one.