Monday, August 4, 2014

First Day of School - An Ode to Teaching

Today was my first day of school . . . the first day of my 15th year of teaching, the first day of my teaching career at the halfway point - how crazy is that?!  Here's how my day went:

I woke up at 5:45 and didn't want to get out of bed.  It's funny because, having a muffin, you wake up early anyway but when you have to get up, there's just something different about it.  I am turning over a new leaf this year and am going to try to have everything cleaned/picked up at night, so in the morning I can just enjoy being with Lemon.  Ian left on his bike so I didn't even see him, and I showered and did my makeup before Lemon woke up around 7am.

I cuddled my girl, nursed her, we brushed our teeth and then Brittany came over.  I got to talk to her for a bit, give her the run down of the week, and then made my chai and was out the door by 7:40 (10 minutes later than I wanted to be).

Driving is always boring, same old route, same every day, but today I called the zoo and added Brittany to our membership so that she and Lemon could go today.  I also forgot about my Moms on Mondays post and had to ask Brittany to tell me who was scheduled for today so I could work on it at lunch - oops!  The first day of school always makes my brain turn to mush.

I got to school around 8:10 but spent 5 minutes stopped, in the school driveway, behind a bus letting off our Special Education students.  I parked and got to my classroom by 8:20ish (my first class doesn't start until 8:55).  Turned on my computer, went to pick up copies, prepared some "getting to know you" activities and updated some of my intro presentations.  I also found a cool video to show my students (and then asked them to discuss, and share, why they think education is important).  "If education is the key than school is the lock."  Genius.

The Principal and VP came for a visit, I was ready and my students started walking in . . .

How is this year going to be different?

For the past 14 years I have covered most of my tattoos, have dressed professionally, but not like myself, and have become a stickler to the rules, guidelines and curriculum.  I lost sight of why I started teaching, and even though I loved the kids and still connected with them, I felt I lost a bit of my passion for it.

Let's be honest, last week was a total bummer.  I left for school on Tuesday, and even though I was only gone a couple of hours, Lemon wondered where I was (she didn't see me when she woke up), had a tough time and I ended up talking to her on the phone while she sang the ABC's and I cried my eyes out.  I had a bad attitude and was just really depressed, I didn't want summer to be over and I didn't want to leave my little girl.  I went through the motions for days and finally decided that instead of complaining I should be counting myself lucky.

I get two months off a year to spend as a stay-at-home mom, how cool is that?  I get 4 weeks off, during the school year, to spend with my girl (and every weekend), even though two days feels really short - it's not.  Two days is two more days than other people get with their families, and I am lucky to have them.  And two months is more than other people have - I am lucky to have them too.

Why am I bummed?  Lemon will be in school in 2 years, I will get to retire in 15 years, we both have awesome health insurance, money to spare each month and we get vacation times and weekends to hang as a family.  Am I allowed to feel bummed?  Sure!  Do I sometimes hate being a working mom?  Yes!  Do I wish I worked half days, or 3 days a week instead of 5?  You bet!  But, am I luckier than others?  Yes.  And, it was time for me to have an attitude adjustment.

On Friday a speaker named Calvin Terrell came to our school and gave a presentation for 4 hours.  By the end, teachers were on their feet and some had tears in their eyes.  This was just what I needed.

I remembered why I started teaching.  I remembered why I started teaching here, in an inner city school.  I also remembered what teaching is all about, and the reason I wake up every day to do it.  I used to be excited to go to work, before Lemon, and I believe I can be excited again.  I love my job, I always have, but this year I vow to love it even more.  I have to change my perspective, change my attitude and that will change my students.

I have a quote on my wall, it's also the same quote I put on my Instagram profile 3 years ago when I joined the site that has influenced our lives so much, and has put us in touch with so many amazing people.  The quote is from Nelson Mandela and says:  "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

This quote used to mean something very different to me, when I started this blog - the loss of our first baby and overcoming that experience.  Then, it represented something else - the loss of my Nani, my grandma, and many others, and forging on.  It represented being a new mother, trying to figure it all out, maintaining a relationship with friends, my husband and my daughter - even when times were tough. The last couple of weeks of summer it lifted me up when I was down again, when I had lost faith that there was a point to all of this, a reason for telling my story.  Last week (and this week), it holds me up again (along with all of you), and makes me remember why I am a teacher, why I work every day, why I leave my daughter to drive into the city and the impact I have on so many students (over 2000 so far in my career!).  I am here to teach them this, to help this quote lift them up in times of trouble too.

Teaching, just like other jobs, ebs and flows.  You start out with a passion, with a purpose, and then the rules/guidelines and procedures bog you down and you lose sight of your passion, the reason you chose this profession.  Then you find it again, lose it and then rediscover it - over and over again.  We have to remind ourselves why we chose the jobs we did, and renew our interest in them, just like every other aspect of life.  It's a journey, we are always learning, changing and going with the flow.

This year I vow to stay positive.  I will try to stay on top of things at home, and at school, and will keep things simple.  I will inspire, have fun and make sure that I try to impact all of my students, ever single one of them (I will try!).  I will remember why I leave in the mornings, why I chose this job and what it means to me.  And, I will always remember how lucky I am to have a job, to have this job, and what I am teaching Lemon about herself and her future, having a working mama.  I will save money, I will pay off credit cards, I will travel and I will be a weekend warrior (like you, Christine!) where I don't just spend my weekends grocery shopping, but instead go on an adventure with my family.  I will plan meals, I will clean the night before, I will cuddle my muffin in the mornings and I will wear my contacts (and eye makeup) every day so that I can be more "me" at work (it's shallow but important).

Today I put on a comfy skirt (thanks Mom for my new school wardrobe!), a v-neck shirt (that shows my tattoos), some comfy Minnetonka sandals, a sand dollar necklace that reminds me of the beach (my fav place), put my contacts in (huge for me), am wearing eyeliner (also huge, I hate makeup usually), have freshly painted nails and toes (my mom and I got mani/pedis yesterday), and a new haircut and I feel like a million bucks.  I feel like me, instead of some buttoned up teacher, and am having more FUN.  (Isn't it crazy how girls are like this?  You dress up, you feel less tired.  Work tricks!)

If you work - take a piece of you to work this week.  Don a piece of jewelry that represents something (or makes you remember your little one at home), get a haircut, or show a tattoo (if you have one).  If you don't work - gussy yourself up for a day.  Put on some eyeliner or put your contacts in - you wouldn't believe how much it can change your attitude.  Be proud of the job you do, be proud of how you look when you're doing it.  Whatever your profession, even if you stay at home, be grateful for what you have and realize how lucky you are.  Don't be bummed, we are all lucky in some way.  Count your blessings. 

Happy first day of school to me and my students - it's gonna be a great year!

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  1. Love the outfit! Love the attitude :)

  2. I love this post. I all too often struggle with being a working mama; full time nurse. But, I can count myself lucky that I get days off to be with Palmer.

    I get relief in knowing that others have highs and lows in their job. Right now, I am definitely in a rut - working fulltime in the summer at such a great time in Palmer's life is hard for me. I struggle with working 6 shifts in a row. But, I know I always have something to look forward to at the end of the day. I love nursing and I love being a mom. It's finding the balance that is difficult and trying at times.

    Thanks for the great post and great reminder to stay positive! :)

    1. Alycia, hang in there, we are all here with you! I like to think that the time I DO get to spend with Lemon is quality time, instead of just me doing housework or time we take advantage of because we are always together. I try to stay off my phone when I get home from work, and actually play with my girl and save the cleaning for after she's in bed. Hugs mama, we can do this!!

  3. As much as I love staying home with LG, I miss teaching and how fun the first day of school was! You are an amazing mama and teacher! Loved this post!

    1. Thank you! So lovely to have someone comment from the other side. I am having so much fun! :)

  4. You rocked this, baby! And so proud of you! This is my 40th year of teaching and you know how much I love what I do! Remember that if mama's happy, everybody happy! ( I deleted above reply 'cause I had a spelling error and the teacher in me couldn't leave it!)

  5. I love the way you write Allison! I feel like I'm just sitting down and talking to you. I have a lot of things I want to do differently this year too, especially with my home life and getting things ready the night before. My mornings of getting two girls ready is seriously insane and I let it get the best of me. I end up screaming at Avery, Mila's crying and it's just a bad scene...or at least it was when the school year ended in May. Not this time. I am determined to do everything I can to get stuff ready the night before so we can have more relaxed mornings like you and Lemon do. I want to leave them in the morning on a positive note, so we can all have a better day. I love and enjoy my job too and am excited to get back to it...thanks for reminding me of that. ( :

  6. I loved this, A. Way to focus on the positive and rock it as a teacher----truly an inspiration. Might have to re-read this when my maternity leave is over;)

  7. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. I went back to work in June after my maternity leave and I've been so bummed since then. It is SO much harder than I thought it would be. I absolutely need to be thankful for what I have and all of the positives that come along with working (money to pay bills, fantastic insurance for me and my babe, retirement $, etc.). I especially love what you wrote about enjoying the weekend. We have gotten in a bad habit of running errands/grocery shopping on Saturdays and then it feels like there is no down time or family fun days. I'm with you on making weekend adventures happen. Yes!!!