Sunday, September 11, 2011
The honeymoon ended on Thursday. Right on schedule. Except it was one of many things I'd forgotten about, and caught me completely off-guard. So instead of feeling like a normal part of the process of beginning a school year, the day felt like a confirmation of all my fears. Fears I'd kept at bay during the happy sunny beginning as I fell in love with my class.
I went home Thursday night shaken, my limbs leaden, my heart protesting. Sad that the new self I'd brought to the classroom seemed to last only last six days. Wondering how I was going to get through the next 174.
Then, as I have so many times in the last weeks, I decided to take fear on.
Yes, the kids wouldn't stop talking. Yes, I spoke to them sternly. No, nothing I did seemed to work.
However, I have good systems in place. I wasn't using them because I didn't want to seem mean or too strict. Too many chances, too many warnings, with the result that we were all frustrated.
Yes, it was a long day for us all—three hours without a break in the afternoon. Yes, it would have been better if I'd taken them outside for a bit. No, I didn't think of that because I was too busy trying to push through.
So the bigger problem was a too long stretch of time without respite. Easily solved.
Yes, I'm behind in just about every way possible. Yes, the workload is unrelenting, two new demands appearing for every one I manage to meet. No, I'm not going to be able to live this way for an entire year.
I brought work home for the weekend, and spent most of yesterday slogging through the piles of tests and standards and unfinished curriculum maps. Walt made forms for me, and self manager badges for the kids. He got groceries. He held me. At the end I could feel my breathing ease and my whole self loosen.
Friday was as good a day as Thursday was not. Returning my focus to having fun and building connections (as opposed to the pressure to catch up, to teach more faster, to do it right), I planned a day of community building. We did math, but we also had our first auction and the kids got to change their seats for the first time. We practiced vocabulary, but it was a game. The silent ball game we always end the day with might have been a little longer than usual. Everyone left for the weekend smiling.
Yesterday morning as I sat by the river while Toby dived for rocks, I watched a vulture sit uncertainly at the top of a tall snag on the other side. While I couldn't see clearly enough to know for sure, he seemed young. Maybe it was the way he kept throwing his wings out for balance. Or the way he edged himself gingerly out on a branch before flapping himself to the next snag over.
I enjoyed his antics for a long time, thinking as I often do with vultures, how misunderstood they are. They symbolize and live on death and decay. Yet they're highly social and curious. On the ground they look like giant pin-headed chickens, but if you don't look too closely at their heads they are incredibly beautiful, especially in flight.
Maybe fear isn't so much different. It definitely peddles death and decay. No one's happy to see it arrive. But examined more closely, confronted and studied, fear's just another bird with a job to do. It's not nearly as powerful as its appearance would lead us to believe. Information is provided. I have the power to choose what to do with it.
I'll go in early again tomorrow. As I sit here writing I remember I need to do my parent letter first thing, plus there's copying and setting up for the day, and, and, and. And my stomach contracts—fear, sneaky and silent in its approach, does a fly-by. I breathe, enjoy the beauty of its black wings, and allow it to soar out of sight. Today is for playing. Tomorrow is for work (with generous helpings of play). I can handle both.