"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 28, 2011


In the two weeks since I stepped back into the world of public education I've heard one question more than any other: Are you excited to be back?

Well, no, as a matter of fact, I'm not. But I don't say that. Not because I'm avoiding the truth, but because being excited is not the point.

The art teacher, my across-the-hall neighbor, was in my room last week introducing himself. Hired the year I left, he's young and clearly loves teaching even more than he loves his own art. He lives and breathes creativity. As I worked to express to him my belief that returning to the classroom will ultimately sharpen my writing, he said the perfect thing:

"Creativity works best under pressure."

It's not a new idea. A John Stewart quote with identical meaning found its way to me early last winter as I struggled to make peace with having to return to teaching.

But it was just one of many moments that are standouts as I've prepared for the first day of school, which is Wednesday.

The teacher desk left in my room was a small blond desk-wannabe that would have held my computer and phone with no surface left to spread out and work. While hunting for other furniture, I noticed a huge scarred dark wood slab buried under a pile of tattered books and torn borders. My desk! The one I had before, and loved.  Set up in my room now in all its aged battered glory, it greets  me every time I step into the room with a broad welcoming expanse and drawers enough for a paper addict's needs.

Vinnie, our district maintenance guy, was in my room fixing cupboard doors. I asked him if he'd seen the work order to move my projection screen (the focal point of the classroom), the thing I needed done much more than I needed doors tightened. He hadn't received that order yet, but took the time to move the screen while he was there, which made it possible for me to finish setting up my furniture.

I returned to my room during a break from meetings on Friday to find a newer computer on my desk. The tech guy, Chase, has months' worth of work that needs to get done before school starts. He can't walk down the hall without a teacher following him throwing out lists of urgent needs. Despite that, he took the time as he set up  my computer, without having been asked, to enlarge what shows on the screen so I no longer have to peer through squinted eyes to read.

Sitting in meetings (five days worth in two weeks), something that usually brings out every resistant bone in my body, has been mostly a pleasure. I hadn't realized how much I missed being surrounded by the wonderful quirks and stories and energies of my fellow travelers. I've laughed more (cried more, too), talked more, absorbed more, in the last two weeks than I have in ages.

Yesterday morning I wrote post cards to my new students. The list changes on a daily basis, but since  the first time I saw it early last week, I've already begun to love the names. I've also begun to form pictures of some of the kids as fourth grade teachers look to see which of their kids I got. I have siblings of three former students, all families I'm eager to work with again. As I finished each post card, I would set it aside with a blessing and a prayer for that child, our relationship, and their fifth grade year.

Tomorrow is another meeting day. So is Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon we have "free" to prepare for Open House Tuesday night. Wednesday morning at least 26 ten-year-olds will step into a new year with me. They'll see this quote by Douglas Pagels on the back bulletin board:

"Each new day is a blank page in the diary of life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can."

While I may not be exactly excited to be back, I am confident this year will be full of the best stories I've ever experienced, both mine and my students'. A year of pinnacles to be celebrated, admired, and grateful for. And under all of that, a glimmer of hope that one story in particular will find its way to the surface, and grow into a reality that exceeds my imagination.

Photo of The Pinnacles at Crater Lake taken by Walt.


Amber said...

I am also full of hope for your year. And I KNOW how lucky your students are going to be.

:) oxox

kario said...

You have brought tears to my eyes. These families are not going to know what hit them. I love that, despite the fact that this is not the way you had hoped things would turn out for you right now, you are staying true to who you are and steadily moving forward into forging new relationships and bringing all of you with it.

You are an inspiration to me.


#1Nana said...

A friend of mine used to say, about unpleasant or extreem "learning" moments that "It's worth it for the stories." It's a philosophy I've come to admire. No matter what life throws us, we can get a good story and a life lesson. I look forward to reading about your new adventures. Now I've got to go run and write down this quote so I remember to write about the stories.

Sandi said...

Well, it seems as though the stars are lined up and your year is off to a good start. Getting your old desk back was awesome! I love that your screen and computer came about without having to beg for them!

That quote is magnificent. May I use also? What a wonderful quote for the beginning of the year, and to set the tone.

I didn't realize you were starting on Wednesday, and we both have 26 students, too. Gee, if only you were just next door, like in the old days.

Much love and warm wishes for a exciting year of learning!


Believe it or not, you going back to work, made me think of how much going to a job would help my state of mind right now. I loved school and I love the details you've shared so far about your experience.
Please continue sharing with us.
You are in for lots of good surprises this year!
Just be open to the endless possibilities.
Envy you! Blessings Barb

Katie Gates said...

Wow, Deb, this is a powerful post. It made me smile and it brought tears to my eyes. I want to hear about some of those student names you're already loving! I agree with the relationship of creativity to pressure. When I've played Lotto, I've done so entertaining a certain, absurdly hopeful fear. The fear is that I would win the big jackpot, and as a result, I'd lose all my drive!

Dee Ready said...

As Kario says, "You are an inspiration to me," Deb. I think I've shared before that my mother would always say to me, "Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good you will find it. And if you look for bad, you will surely find that too."

Your nature is one that seeks out the good in all situations. In what you write and in how you teach. In the 26 ten-year-olds you will meet and the art teacher and in Vinnie--the district maintenance man.

With that attitude toward life, you and those 26 young people with whom you journey will write life-long stories this year--within your hearts and minds and spirits.

Peace in all this, within and without.

Retired Knitter said...

I was a second grade teacher for only 4 years and it has been 37 years since I left the classroom. I moved into a new career after my kids were old enough for me to return to work, but dreams of the first day of school still persist. It is a memorable time each year.

Good luck. I am eager to hear about it.

DJan said...

This year will be like no other. You are different, the students are different. But the desk is the same! I look forward to hearing how it all plays out. You WILL be posting regularly on here, won't you? Pleeeze???

Rita said...

Well, this year will just have to shine! You found your desk! I am new to your blog and hope to hear all about your coming school year. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this post Deb. Some things are meant to be and you, complete with your beloved old desk, are clearly meant to be back at school. If there is a plan for us all, you will find yours I am sure and I cannot wait to hear of the stories you will tell!
Good luck and those students of yours will soon find out how lucky they are.

kt said...

Awh...Deb....what a beautiful post. I have been retired from teaching for almost 6 years now. I do miss it, but I don't think I could go back..........I just paused and said a prayer for you and your students. it WILL be a good year and I am sure the students will be blessed by your presence in their life. kt

yaya said...

What lucky students to have such a gifted and caring teacher. I wish my kiddos had had such a find! Good luck and I know this will be the best year ever for you.

Stacy Crawford said...

What a treat to have your tried and true desk. I hope it helps you feel comfortable in this challenge you are facing. You are like those leaves, being pushed toward the light. Good luck! It will all make sense later.

Retired English Teacher said...

This post brought back many memories of setting up a classroom at the beginning of the year. I love that you found your old desk. There is something comforting about having those solid pieces of furniture, old and battered, but familiar, in the areas where we teach. They almost serve as touchstones. They are the places where we spin our dreams, and lesson plans, so we can reach those pinnacles of which you speak. A desk such as this is where a teacher returns after a long day of teaching and wraps up the days tasks. It is the place that makes us feel at home when we settle in for a year of challenge when we mold 26 ten year old into prepared, ready to move on to the next level, sixth graders.

I know you aren't really where you hoped to be, but i am confident you will know yourself better than you've ever known yourself when this year is over.

patricia said...

FUN- just have fun. Love the stuffing out of those kids and eat up all the love they give you back. You are a fabulous teacher- it is what God has for you now. Embrace it...and it will embrace you right back. I love you, friend!

LauraX said...

It is a miraculous thing when our perspective changes and suddenly, the things we were kind of dreading reveal unexpected gifts...it is like the axis of the world has tilted and now we are receiving exactly the right amount of sun and rain to feel nourished and satisfied. Not that every moment will be great, but we know we'll be ok, maybe even MORE than ok:-)

Pam said...

Looking forward to hearing about when they all fill the classroom. Sending warm wishes and as Amber said in her first comment, I too am "full of hope for your year".

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh, Deb, that's exciting. To me, that's marvelous. You will be a blessing to those children.

By the way, I just started reading "Love, Aubrey" by Suzanne LaFleur, a school teacher who found in her students the inspiration to write that wonderful novel.

I know you will find your inspiration as well. Looking forward to hearing more :-))


Barb said...

Hi Deb, I've been on the slow track reading blogs after some outpatient surgery last week. Now you already have a week under your belt. This line brought tears to my eyes: "As I finished each post card, I would set it aside with a blessing and a prayer for that child, our relationship, and their fifth grade year." May your optimism and positive experiences continue. I love what the art teacher told you!

Mark Lyons said...

The "new" perception that you bring to what I consider the "greatest profession" warms my soul and brings tears to my eyes. To know that you can walk back into this career that you left to pursue your dream of writing without anger and resentment look forward to a new adventure speaks volumes to me. You know my love and my prayers reach out to you each day. All I can say is "26+ ten years olds have been blessed with a teacher that will touch their lives forever."

I love you

Midlife Jobhunter said...

How I wish my children could have had you for a teacher. I wish you the best in this new school year.

Kathryn Grace said...

"As I finished each post card, I would set it aside with a blessing and a prayer for that child, our relationship, and their fifth grade year."

What lucky, lucky children. May you be blessed with them all year long as they are to have you.