Monday, May 26, 2014

Teacher Musings - What I'll Miss, and What I Won't

I suppose it's high time that I post a bit about being a teacher now that it is nearly the end of May... sheesh, when did that happen?!

The school year is winding down, and it will come to a screeching halt in a matter of days. We have six school days left, and then I will officially be on summer break! I'm telling you, this break cannot come soon enough. If it wasn't for this Memorial Day holiday, I might have lost a little bit of my sanity, because my brain is definitely already on summer vacation. Oh, the tricks your mind can play!

As more and more people are releasing for summer, people keep asking me several questions:
1) Are you done with school?
2) Will you miss your kids?
3) What are you doing next year (since the school is closing)?

While the first question has already been addressed, the other two need a bit of explaining. I never really have a problem with being blatantly honest about things, which sometimes gets me into trouble, so I apologize if any of this sounds harsh - it's just coming straight out of the horse's mouth, and there's no sense in beating around the bush. (That's a lot of idioms for one sentence...)

Will I miss my kids? If I'm being completely honest... YES, of course I will miss them. It might not be a week after school is over, but I'm sure that I will miss them when my new batch of kids are driving me bonkers for whatever reason they so choose.

In the beginning of the semester, my 8th graders were my saving grace because they didn't need as much from me; my 6th graders were driving me absolutely insane because, well, they pretty much are insane at that age. Now, the complete opposite is true for me: my 8th graders drive me nuts because - let's face it - they're ego-centric jerks that couldn't care less about school, or anything aside from themselves for that matter; my 6th graders have completely stolen my heart, and they have won me over with their enthusiasm, curiosity, and willingness to learn (most of the time).

My 6th graders have made the shift of not wanting to work for me at all to basically doing whatever I ask them to do. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of my little minions are willing to work very hard if I ask them to, which I do on a very regular basis. That has NOT been the norm for them, so making that shift is a really big deal. My 8th graders, on the other hand, started out not wanting to work, and have basically continued to do so; they had a good month or so after spring break, but then the "senioritis of middle school" set in. Hence, the majority of them couldn't care less about their grade in my class (which was shown by the lack of effort put into their final projects; my 6th graders ROCKED theirs... hence the picture below).

I should also probably explain why I call them minions - the 6th graders only... because they ARE minions. One day during class, we were reading out loud, and one of my students accidentally read the next student's "assigned" sentence. The following sentence started with "but." The student said "but" and paused, making sure that was where he was supposed to read. The class giggled. I said "but" and paused, assuring him that it was the spot for him to begin... and one student said, "You said but!" And the entire class burst into hysterical giggles. I couldn't help but laugh right along with them, because it was at that moment that I realized that 6th graders really are real-life minions. They're the perfect analogy!

I'm NOT going to miss my room being vandalized on the outside, broken into, or showered in fire extinguisher powder. I'm NOT going to miss being nearly technology-less, internet-less, and resource-less. I'm NOT going to miss having to walk my computer and papers all the way into the main building, down the hall, past the urine-drenched boys bathroom, and into the library to do anything on the internet - including entering grades, verifying observations, entering attendance, etc. I'm NOT going to miss that one student who ruined that name for me who is extremely rude, conceited, and ridiculously annoying; that laugh and that voice will forever be embedded in my brain as one of the most annoying sounds on the planet. I'm NOT going to miss that one boy with little-man syndrome who is the king of interruptions and being disrespectful in general. I'm NOT going to miss going home with the stench of middle school boys hanging all over me - a mixture of feet, B.O., and toots. I'm NOT going to miss random things from my desk going missing on a very consistent basis, mainly my good pens and pencils... and expo markers. I'm NOT going to miss having a minimum of four meetings per week (that are mostly pointless, despite their best efforts). I'm NOT going to miss having to stand with my head ON the speaker in order to hear every single announcement. I'm NOT going to miss a lot of things, really.

I'm really going to miss my 6th grade babies, though. I'm going to miss shaking their hands every day when they walk through my door. I'm going to miss rejecting their "cool" handshakes because "I'm not cool, I don't do that. I shake hands." and telling them that I'll give them one on the last day of school. I'm going to miss their crazy Hispanic/Latino names. I'm going to miss my 6th graders congregating around my door during passing period. I'm going to miss them mocking me: "Stop congregating around my door!" I'm going to miss them all calling out to me, "Miss! Miss! Miss!" I'm going to miss that little blonde boy of mine who knows that he is one of my favorites despite my best efforts; he does everything he possibly can to make me laugh when I'm trying to be serious, and it makes my heart melt every time, because he is both brilliant and hysterically funny. I won't miss that one wretched student who I wrote up at least three times, but I will miss the days when he FINALLY let his guard down enough to ask questions and put forth effort - it only took four freaking months. I'm going to miss them confiding in me, telling me things that make me laugh and make me cry. Basically, I'm going to miss those relationships that have been built, and won't continue after next week - how teachers go through this kind of torture year after year is beyond me.

Now... what am I doing next year since my school is closing? Yeah, my school is closing. It's a middle school on the southwest side of the city, which means it's pretty ghetto (if you didn't get that from some of the things that I won't miss). That's not why it's closing. It's mostly due to stuff that doesn't have to do with the school itself - government and legislation shenanigans that have the school being remodeled into a pre-k through 3rd grade school. The decision was solidified when the middle school received a grade of D or F for several years in a row (a lot of which has to do with test scores that are hindered by humongous language barriers). So, even if I wanted to stay at this middle school, I couldn't.

Really, the Lord has provided the most ideal situation for me next year. I have accepted a job at the high school at which I student taught last semester; I will be teaching English II (10th grade), which is what I taught last semester under the umbrella of my amazing mentor teacher, with whom I will be on the same grade-level planning team. I absolutely LOVE that high school, the other faculty, the administration, the facilities, the location, and the fact that it is high school and not middle school. It's going to be a tough transition, and there is way more pressure, not only because the school is better, but because it is also a testing year. All that being said, my mentor and other faculty are going to be a wonderful support system within the building - something that I haven't really had at my current school.

I have learned so much during this ridiculously hectic first semester of teaching, but I have so much more that I need to learn. I'm getting there, but I also think that I have survived so well for a reason. If ever I was meant for a profession, teaching is most certainly it...

...I am REALLY looking forward to that summer break, though. ;)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Letters from God: Saying Goodbye to Winter and Hello to Spring!

"Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever."
- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Sometimes, I am simply taken aback by how gracious and loving my God is. Truly. I rush about my life and, more often than not, neglect to pay attention to the blessings that I am showered with every second of every day. I quickly become frazzled by my current disposition of frustration, anxiety, longing, or exhaustion. I selfishly demand that my time be used well in a way in which I decide.

Oh, how silly I can be most of the time.

And then there are times when all I want to do is bask in the goodness of God, bathe in the little gifts that the Almighty maker of Heaven and Earth has given me, pay close attention to the little love letters that He sends me every single day.

It has been a long winter in Oklahoma - a very long, cold, hard winter. Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I looove winter weather: I love getting bundled up in my warm layers, not having to worry about how each of my wardrobe choices fits on my body, bustling to and fro, truly enjoying the warmth that is offered inside. I can only appreciate the heat when I am cold. However, I am so very ready to embrace the warmth and sunshine of spring! We're in the very, very early stages of spring now - the high yesterday was in the 50s, and the high today is in the 70s - the typical back-and-forth weather patterns of the central plains. I am aching to wear a tank top and some shorts (I guess I need to actually buy some first) and just soak up those beautiful rays of sunshine. Literally, there are tears in my eyes just thinking about that prospect right now.

I feel like this past winter is a great big metaphor for me and my well-being. I have been so shut off, so distant, so bitterly cold in my heart since November. Losing that second baby did something to me that I cannot fully explain; it was so different from the first time around. There hasn't been a ton of growth going on over here, either. I have grown and seen change, yes, but I have been stuck in this season for a bit too long. I'm cold, and I'm tired of being cold. I am so ready to embrace the warmth again, to not only see, but experience as well, the true beauty that surrounds me constantly, to recognize those little love letters that my Creator is sending me and respond with a heart that is content and overflowing with joy.

I can feel the tingles of anticipation in my body and soul at the thought of it; that's a feeling that I haven't felt in a long, long time.

This winter of mine is just about over, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Now, it's high time that I get out of my robe and enjoy this gorgeous day that the Lord has made! Hallelujah!

Monday, March 3, 2014

When Other People Get Pregnant...

There are several issues that come with publicizing your miscarriages.

When my loved ones share with me that they are blessed with the news that they are expecting a little blessing of their own, it introduces (or re-introduces) a whole slue of emotions. While they are all perfectly justifiable, they are not always pretty. These emotions also follow a pattern of sorts, but it's anyone's guess as to which order I will subconsciously submit to them. They aren't really problems. They just... are.

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to state a fact:
I have some of the most incredibly sensitive, understanding, and loving friends that a girl could ever ask for. That sounds totally mushy and cliche, but I promise you that I am a thousand percent genuine when I say it. They are the absolute best, and I wouldn't trade them for all the riches in the world. And there is nothing wrong with a single thing that they have said or done in regards to this post, my miscarriages, or anything else on that front. If they ever read this post, I want them to know that they have done absolutely nothing wrong, and I'm not sure they ever will. I love you to pieces. Honest.

Here's the typical series of events:
1. The pregnant party's sharing of news, and reaction to my reaction.
2. The reminder of my status.
3. Living with the memories.
4. Coming to terms with reality

1. The pregnant party's sharing of news, and reaction to my reaction.
Over the past month, two of my dearest friends, who I consider myself to be very close to, have told me that they are pregnant. I won't lie - when the last one told me, I actually screamed from excitement. What an incredible blessing! TWO couples, whom I absolutely adore, are going to experience the miracle that is pregnancy and parenthood! Oh, God is so very good, indeed! And I get to walk along that exciting road with them!

I have prayed for them. I have prayed for their marriages, for the health of the mothers, and for the health of their babies. I have asked God to please spare them from the hell that is miscarriage, and to give them the most perfect little creatures that they have ever set eyes upon. Just because they are pregnant does not mean that I cannot pray for them. On the contrary, I will pray, and I will pray fiercely. There is not a single iota of my being that desires either of these two precious women to come within a million miles of the heartache that I have endured. And I'll be honest... I will be downright pissed off if any of my loved ones has to suffer that kind of loss, either for the first time, or again. That's an entirely different facet of my relationship with God that will need some work... but, in the meantime, I can pray against that for all of them.

When I say that I am blessed with having the best friends ever, I mean it. Some women who have suffered from miscarriage and/or infertility have had to deal with insensitive people who make the most outrageous comments, or who have no regard to the feelings that the woman who is suffering might have. When both of these precious women told me that they were pregnant, they were sensitive, thoughtful, and courteous enough to do the following:
1. They told me individually.
2. They were concerned about me - not only in that moment, but in the future.

That is one of the biggest blessings that I have received, and it is such a small thing! Not only did they tell me in one-on-one conversations, away from the eyes and ears of others, but they told me before they told our mutual friends. They didn't do this because I deserved to know before anyone else, I assure you. By telling me individually, before making the announcement public, they gave me time to process the news on my own, and prepare for the day when that news was shared with everyone else. Talk about a major blessing. When I say that they were concerned about me, I don't mean that they pitied me, or gave me some monologue about how they understand if I'm not happy; nothing like that. They simply wanted me to know that I could let them know if it ever gets to be too much - too much baby talk, too much emotion, too much anything. That means so much to me. They didn't say it for pity's sake, but so they could remain conscious of how I was feeling during their pregnancy. I'm choked up typing these words, because that, more than anything, tells you that these women are incredibly caring and selfless. In their greatest moment of joy and celebration, they're concerned about the state of their friend's well-being. I am overwhelmed every time I think about it.

2. The reminder of my status.
To be honest, any time this type of marvelous news comes about from a new source, it's always a reminder of my status. My baby-less, empty-womb, I-should-have-a-baby, I-should-still-be-pregnant, I'm-still-getting-over-this-crap status. There's no way of getting around it. I've learned to accept it, but it doesn't make the emotional roller-coaster any easier. It is what it is.

3. Living with the memories. 
However, being reminded of my status also means that I am reminded of the hellish ordeal that I have gone through - twice. Each miscarriage experience totes around a whole suitcase of emotions and memories that I get to open up and relive... and, believe me, it is not by choice. I try my absolute hardest to shove the most difficult memories and emotions waaaay down into the corners of that baggage, but they have a tendency to wriggle their way up to the top the same kind of way that my car keys tend to wriggle their way to the absolute deepest, darkest corner of my purse when I don't want them to.

Shoving those memories and emotions down, down, down often means that they resurface in strange and uncomfortable ways. After this most recent time that my sweet friend shared her news with me, I had a lovely nightmare to remind me that I'm not quite okay:
I dreamed that I went to the bathroom to take care of some lady business during the most glorious time of the month. Out of my body and into the toilet came a fully-developed infant's head, encased in the lovely stuff that surrounds infants fresh out of the womb. Yes, I gave birth to a baby's head - just a head - in my toilet. It was about the size of my cupped hand. Its eyes were closed, so I opened them; they were a strange blueish hazel color that I have never seen.

My subconscious did a great job of screwing up my mood for the day, that's for darn sure. Actually, for a couple of days. Freaking jerk.

You see, it's not just the deep-rooted emptiness or envy that gets stirred up inside when people who have no babies hear about other people getting pregnant. It's the subconscious crap, too, and the fact that all of these memories and emotions that we work so hard to bury deep down and hide away in order to get back to a sense of normalcy get yanked out of the corner of the suitcase in a split second. When everyone goes home, when the lights are turned out, when no one is paying attention, that wound gets ripped open again in an instant, and it feels as though you accomplished no amount of healing in all of the days and nights that have passed you by.

I promise you, it's not just baby envy.

4. Coming to terms with reality.
Dark, neverending nights turn into dawn, which turn into days, and those days eventually pass, whether you recognize it or not. Sometimes they go by quickly; other times, they seem to take an eternity. No matter how long it takes, though, you have to come to terms with reality once again. This time, I did it by moving my baby items from the closet into a dresser drawer. I can shut the dresser drawer and not have to look at it every time I go to the spare closet to look for something else. I can shut those emotions in that drawer, too, and keep them there until I have to deal with them again.

I'm not having a baby any time soon. I've come to terms with that reality yet again, and I'll have to reckon with that frustrating truth sooner or later.

For now, though, I'm going to try my absolute hardest to forget my woes. I just want to focus on being happy for and supportive of the people who I love so dearly, and their little ones that I will adore as soon as they arrive. They deserve at least that much from me.