A Realistic Follow-Up to “If Only For A Season”

Admittedly, the words sound whiny even in my head. But I can’t help it.

Now that the year is nearly over, I’m not ready to go.

I do understand that I was incredibly lucky to have had this school year and to have met such wonderful people. And I know all good things come to an end.

But after all my grandiose claims about not being sad to say goodbye and moving on gracefully, I have to acknowledge that I’m not ready to let go of this community. For the first time, I’ve found a group of teachers who truly support one another in every way possible, and I can’t believe the difference it makes at work, at home, for the students, and for the teachers.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’ve worked with incredible teachers throughout my teaching career, and I’ve seen abundant acts of kindness.

But never before have I seen the kind of cohesion that provides a support system, which reaffirms and bolsters, as I have recently experienced.

From morning greetings to heart-warming texts, from literal to figurative shoulders to cry on, from lesson collaboration to tag-teaming exams, I’ve seen what it’s like when teachers work together without concern for competition or judgment. It’s an amazing sight. And for the first time, I saw my kind of role models…teachers I hope to be half as cool as at some point in my life.

I am not ready to let this go.

I am not ready to return to the independent struggle faced by so many teachers.

I’m not ready to see my coworkers as competitors or judges.

I’m not ready to let ridiculous testing standards and assessments break my spirit.

Or feel that my voice has no weight because it is a solitary voice.

Which makes me wonder…do I have to?

While I know it is very unlikely that I will ever work with any of these teachers again, I can’t help but wonder if all is not lost. Can a similar sense of community be fostered elsewhere?

One of my co-workers suggested that I take “Quesadilla Day” with me, but what if I take more?

What if lunches could be turned into happy occasions for camaraderie?

What if grade level and subject area cohorts resulted in an equal division of the workload and not a stalemate over differences of opinion?

What if we congratulated and celebrated one another, instead of continually comparing ourselves and feeling insufficient?

The answer is the possibility of a community of teachers who could band together and create a positive workplace. While there would still be rough days and incessant demands, we would no longer feel alone in our struggle.

I’ve seen it. It is possible. And I believe it can live on for more than a season.

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So, am I ready to let go of this amazing community? Absolutely not.

Yet, there is hope for amazing communities elsewhere. So I will take that hope with me when I go.

Oh, and “Quesadilla Day”…that’s coming, too.

A New Page

Hmm…this is one of those weeks where a thousand thoughts whirl around in my head, but the cursor continues to blink at me from empty space on the page.

Blink…Blink…Blink

So much white space…

So much potential…

And yet the overall effect is somewhat unsettling. It’s like having an overwhelming number of options and being desperate to make the right decision.

Which I suppose isn’t that far removed from what life is like right now.

medium_295406099Decisions are everywhere lately, encircling friends and family as they decide what course their lives will take. Never before have so many people for whom I care stood at the edge of one career and gazed out at the horizon, simultaneously inviting and dreading the next step.

For isn’t that all too often what it feels like when we reach those life-altering decisions? Like standing on the edge of a cliff with the wind in your hair and the splendor of a brand new sunrise slowly warming your face?medium_5820866907

Yet, try as you might to stay focused on the horizon, it’s impossible to ignore that nagging tug from the comfort of roads well-traveled and routines well-established.

Such a common feeling. We are without a doubt creatures of habit, and it has been my past experience that many choose familiarity over happiness. For some crazy reason, we assume that it’s safer to travel the rocky path we know well, instead of striking out on a new path that might have boulders or no rocks at all.

The old adage, “the grass is always greener…,” comes to mind as a common warning to appreciate what we have and where we are. Yet, I don’t think the intention of that saying was ever to suggest that we shouldn’t explore or expand our horizons.

We are not stagnant beings.

We’re meant to grow and evolve into the best versions of ourselves.

Increasingly, I’m realizing that this growth is not always vertical, as in working upward from entry-level to upper management, but instead it comes in many forms.

Many of my generation have come to this realization as they grow weary with their initial career intentions and now face the intimidating task of changing paths and pursuing a different course completely.

For others, it is a matter of taking one’s expertise to a new venue. Not only will a new audience play a vital role, but the very landscape will serve as a catalyst for growth.

I remember how overwhelmed I was when I made the move from middle to high school. I likened it to being in the eye of a hurricane. After weathering the initial bands associated with pursuing a new position, there was a momentary calm in the eye of the storm, where I anticipated the unknown. It was incredibly unnerving, but I’d like to think that by expanding my horizons, I changed my whole world.

So as the school year comes to a close, and so many I hold dear stand with their toes at the edge of a precipice, looking back longingly and perhaps uncertainly, I want to encourage them to focus on the horizon and remember that our stories grow as we do.

But first we must turn the page.

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If Only For A Season…

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If Only For A Season…

Our lives are made of many seasons. Yet, the majority of them are not measured in days or by the relationship of the Earth to the Sun. Instead, they are determined by our relationships to others. These individuals play a role in altering the very fabric of our being, often without any knowledge of the integral role they have played in our lives.

Yet, a season within one’s life expands beyond the individuals involved. It is more. It has to do with the events that occur during that time, and how people are built up or broken down as a result. While some seasons weigh us down with grief and struggle, others lift us up with joy and celebration. In my opinion, the best ones revitalize us with self-discovery.

These seasons are fluid things, always expanding, contracting, and melding into one another. It is easier to delineate them after-the-fact. Yet, I have recently found that it is possible to pause and recognize some, perhaps not all, of the forces at work.

You see, in the past eight months, I’ve experienced a season like no other in my life.

Never before have I struggled with so much self-doubt and so little faith.

Never before have I sought to shut out everything and everyone.View More: http://amalieorrangephotography.pass.us/monicaalbertswedding

It was a very dark time for me. Darker than I care to admit.

My husband saved me. He pulled me out of that darkness and held me close until I found myself again, which was no swift event.

Fortunately, while he bolstered me, other forces stepped in.

The job that I originally regretted taking

It acquainted me with teachers who loved their students. And I don’t mean the kind of care all good teachers have for their pupils; I mean the kind of love that reminds students they are not alone in their darkest moments.

It introduced me to an administration that worried just as much about feeding their students as the results of their unceasing assessments.

medium_8645219964It gave me those awe-inspiring sunrises and landscapes that captivated me during my commute and reminded me to pause and appreciate the beauty all around.

Most of all, it put me in the classroom with seniors who taught me what it meant to be a real teacher. They quietly showed me just why it’s so much harder to be a kid in today’s society. Then, they amazed me with their resilience. They sought advice on everything from literary analysis to college applications to relationships. And to my dismay, they listened very carefully to every bit of advice I offered.

They taught me how to love my students for who they are and not what politicians and standardized tests want them to be.

For the first time in my life, I looked at these kids and knew that I loved them the way my peers did. That it was possible for me to be that kind of teacher: the one who students know really does care about them.

With that realization came the understanding that I had found my passion in the very profession I had only months before sought to abandon. It was humbling, honestly, to realize that all of these forces had worked together, some intentionally and others unintentionally, to change me for the better.

While I am not a religious person, I can see how many might call that the hand of God in my life. Being as it is, I can’t ignore the beauty and grace of the season I have just weathered.

Now, I find myself at the close of the school year, looking back. It is clear this incredible season has almost reached its end.

My seniors will graduate in eighteen days.

The majority of my department are leaving to pursue their callings elsewhere.

My inspirational, daily sunrises will soon cease along with my commute as I, too, change schools.

But I am not saddened by the change, as it is an inevitable part of life.

Instead, I’ll revel in the opportunity I was given to discover my philosophy of teaching. I’ll celebrate those who showed me what really matters. And I’ll forever appreciate all the elements that coalesced, if only for a season, so I could find myself.

 

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Check Out This Week’s Blog at Talkingclassradio.com!

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I’m excited to announce that this week’s blog, “Breaking Bad’s Walter White…A Role Model for My Students,” is being featured on Talking Class Radio! This piece is a bit more outrageous than my usual writing, so please check it out and feel free to comment. You can access it by clicking the following link:

http://talkingclassradio.com/2014/05/07/kids-like-walter-white/

As always, thank you so much for reading!