I golf. I rarely get invited to golf because I’m a girl but that’s talk for a different day. A golf instructor once gave me excellent advice at the driving range. She said, “Your first 8 balls don’t count. Don’t get too frustrated or stressed and definitely don’t lose hope. Just swing, take note of how you felt, and swing again.” The parallels between this comment and the first month of school are extraordinary. Rather than 8, I would say I usually need 20-30 days to get my groove and even then I might lose it and need to re-evaluate my swing. I try to be kind to myself that first month. I go in each day, swing, and then step back and note how I feel. At the end of 30 days, or sometimes sooner, I start to see patterns of things that are working and things that aren’t. This is when I make big moves. But I have to give myself some days that don’t count in the beginning. I have to get warmed up. There are more balls in my bucket; I’ll focus on those.
Halfway there. It’s encouraging not because I’m halfway to summer break but because I made it halfway. And if I made it this far, I can definitely make it to June. Too often, I look back and feel like I haven’t done enough or I’ve left too much undone. This might be true but if I can re-frame and look at the past as a list of things I did (that happened, I did that), then it’s much easier to be positive in the face of round two. And round two needs my optimism and determination. I have to make space for the second half to be its own thing and it won’t be if I’m still stuck in November wishing I’d followed through with that classroom management plan I initiated. I can do this job because I am doing this job.
If we only talk about problems, life gets depressing real quick. I am in this profession because I find it rewarding, funny, uplifting, and challenging. I try to disengage with the chatter that involves blaming the principal, the vice principal, the district, Common Core, parents, the system. Talk like this wastes my time. The autonomy I have in my classroom day in and day out is overwhelmingly powerful. Change and opportunity are at my fingertips. If I can see the sky as limitless instead of falling down, I am a happier teacher and my students benefit.
Sometimes I cry. I cry because my students were mean to each other and it’s all my fault. I cry because my lesson didn’t go how I’d envisioned. I cry because the principal came in at the worst possible time. I cry because I’m overwhelmed. I cry because it’s 7PM, I’m still at school, and I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I cry because I’m tired – just so tired. It’s easy to focus on the negative parts of teaching (especially in October when the honeymoon period is over and the fact that summer is gone and won’t be back for a while settles in). But if through my blurry eyes, I can see at least one positive thing, one thing that is going well, I can put myself to sleep that night.