Under Pressure

“…I’m an old lump of coal.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m hoping if I put enough pressure on you I’ll get a diamond.”

I have had a rough few weeks.

School, for teachers, began three weeks ago. I spent the first week stressing out about whether or not our school would have enough children registered in kindergarten for all four of us on the K team to keep our jobs (for many, many days, we sat at 12 kids/classroom) and wondering if having a full-time intern was actually a good decision. I’ve never had an intern before (or done a teaching internship, for that matter) and the idea of a full-time, “I’m-there-when-you’re-there” person seemed so much less overwhelming in April when Caity was hyping me up for it. “You’ll be so great! I’ve learned so much from just being in your class for 30 minutes a week, your intern is going to be so lucky!” Now that my intern was actually there with me, I felt really inadequate and worried about whether or not she’d learn anything useful from me.

The second week for teachers was the first week for students. Most of the kids I’d seen at Meet the Teacher came back for Day 1 of school (one registered for kindergarten with us, filled out the paperwork I had at Meet the Teacher, and subsequently moved to a city 30 miles south of us. I’m choosing to see those as unrelated events). The problem with Day 1 of school in kindergarten is that it is literally the first day of school that some kids have ever had. It is nerve-wracking and difficult and thankfully, my principal understands that. He told us that as long as we get them to the right rooms, make sure they eat lunch and send them home safely, we’ve been successful on Day 1. No one cried, everyone ate lunch, and they all got home safely. Win.

This past week I tried to remember that I can’t compare this year’s kids to last year’s kids. Including the obvious reason that they’re just different kids, I remember last year’s kids at Day 180 and these kiddos just haven’t had the chance to get to that yet. They’ll learn the routines and procedures and so far, they’re soaking it all up. We’re learning Kagan structures, independence, and kindness. We know why we have rules, we know who the boss is, and we understand the consequences of not following directions. And for only being 10 days in, that’s pretty fantastic.

This past Friday I planned to drive down to spend the weekend with Andy, help him with a project and have good quality time. The past few weeks have been pretty stressful and he promised me a relaxing Friday night, which I was looking forward to. Only when I woke up Friday morning (late) at 5:45 a.m., the first thing that happened was the filling my dentist had put in a little more than 12 hours prior fell out. Literally, I was still in my bed. After the wave of panic subsided, I left a message for the dentist explaining what had happened, packed my car and headed out for work.

I should explain that when the dentist did this particular filling, the root/nerve/whatever it’s called of my tooth became exposed. He put a covering on it and explained to me that in the future, it would be likely that I’d need a root canal but that this would help delay that process.

Did you know that an exposed nerve + coffee = pain? Or that an exposed nerve + air = pain? I tried to teach my class on Friday. I really, really did. I had plans and goals and everything but about 30 minutes in, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. The office found a sub for me and after a few phone calls, the dentist’s office set up an appointment for me at noon to have an emergency root canal at an endodontist‘s office.

[This is the part where I am reassured that I picked the right boyfriend.]

At this point driving up 13th Street, I had a meltdown, pulled over, and texted Andy. He had offered a few hours prior to scrap our plans and I had (pridefully) written that idea off because I had planned to go down and help him with his project. He had told me he could come up here instead and when I finally called him to ask if he would, he told me he’d run to his house after work and drive up.

Right now, we’re sitting on my couch. He’s been working on fixing my phone issues and I’ve been finalizing lesson plans for next week. He showed up two nights ago with flowers and fancy bacon from Lucky’s. We’ve had great conversations, cracked jokes, and fallen a bit more for each other. Peeking up at him over my computer monitor, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am. The past few weeks have been stressful, but I have an amazing man who will change his plans to support me when I need it. Having him in my life is a blessing that I plan to not take for granted.

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Old-Fashioned Letters

Today is the kind of day I wish I could pause. The kind where the sun shines brightly all day in the cloudless sky but there’s still a calm, cool breeze blowing. The kind where everything is still and peaceful. Perfect hammock weather, you know, provided you’re into that sort of thing, actually own a hammock, and have two trees in your yard to attach said hammock to. Of course, sitting on your back porch sipping lemonade with your feet propped up on an extra chair works almost as well. So well, in fact, that maybe you lose track of how long you’ve been outside and you discover that it’s actually much, much later than you thought it was. (DST 1, Me 0.)

Days like today help me plan my lessons. Not the sitting-in-front-of-the-computer, typing-it-all-in-and-making-it-make-sense part, but the what-do-I-want-my-students-to-actually-learn part. One of my goals as a teacher is something I won’t be able to measure: while I want my students to be excited about their education and futures, I want them to be good people. I want them to value kindness, have integrity, and to treat others with compassion. I want to build character that permeates into their homes. I want my students to love well.

But in order to build that kind of drive in my class, I have to already have it within myself. Anyone who’s been around children for long periods of time understands that you replicate who you are, mostly through your actions. So ideas of kindness, citizenship, and compassion have to be my first responses, not just words I say when two of my students are arguing with each other. And more importantly, building character is intentional, not just a defensive maneuver you squeeze in if you catch one kid pushing another.

This week we’re going to learn about writing letters and how important it is to take the time to send mail. Emails and texts are effective methods of communication, but there’s something special finding something in your mailbox that isn’t a bill or an advertisement for life insurance. At least, for me there is. It’s the feeling of being noticed, whether it’s a thank-you or a letter from a pen pal, where someone made an extra effort. For you. Because they value you and think you matter. And that’s what I want to teach my kids, both my future biological ones and the ones I parent for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.