Learning to be a Better Teacher

When I see a blankness, I want to cover it all. In words, in doodles, in darkness. Mess is chaotic but it’s art and natural; order shows functions but its systematically rigid. Heartless.
I’d choose clutter any day, baubles full of history.

I burned myself out this past weekend. A robot I was racing against the other teachers, against myself to complete all homework creation and lesson plans and guided reading plans and morning work preparations long before the deadline. I didn’t want to feel guilty about binge watching the entire season 2 of Once Upon a Time, so I did all my work with my ears glued to the giant smartTV in my living room and eyes stuck on my laptop.

During my prep, I felt the weight of my choice: the emptiness. Preciously fired up, it felt great to be churning my brain cells in attempt to exceed expectations. But today I woke up sluggish. My brain had rewired to sit and type furiously instead of being sugar for my students.

In autumn, it’s always sad to see the crumpling leaves fall, decaying brown, but the glowing hues of red and orange and yellow are filled with warm vigor that radiates vitality in dropping temperatures. That is what I want to embody: when I wake up and wish I could stay under my fleece blanket, I still find the energy to jump out of bed to get ready to greet my scholars with utmost honest enthusiasm.

It was an easier choice to dive into my work last weekend than face the last day of my one of my scholars last Friday. He had a curious imagination and was always eager to participate. Coping with his extreme ADHD was tricky a lot of times – for his little self and for us teachers trying to manage the whole class and help him. He would get upset when he wasn’t called on all the time and in group activities he tried to steal the learning spotlight to be a clown. But Ella and I loved him; he had a very big heart eager to bring smiles to all his friends’ faces. His fascination with bugs started to heal my fear of plastic realistic looking spiders. His active mind required constant stimulation that challenged me to build more creative methods in regaling lessons to him. Progress was a roller coaster, but he was our scholar, ours, one we believed we’d see growing up in our charter school. As it turned out, his family benefited from a job in another state. We were given a week’s notice but Ella and I did not want to face it. Even on the last day, we went about the day regularly.  As the day came to a close, both Ella and I hugged Dary and sent home his school-kept comfort bear as a parting gift.

It didn’t hit me I was in denial until Monday. I saw Dary’s name on school supplies his family had given to our classroom; I saw his nametag pop up everywhere – every time I was forced to see it, I handed it over to Ella – she was much more swift in letting it go. I wanted to stand and stare at the chance gone in helping a scholar succeed and mourn.
But that choice made me distant from the scholars that were in front of me.

My scholars know I am putty to their hugs. I will never say no. Many randomly get out of line or seat to give me a hug; I chide them to follow instructions and complete the task at hand, but I can never put my heart into it. Their hugs mean I am doing something right and I love to share my joy back with them.
But the last two days the hugs depleted. I wasn’t myself; aloof and focused on prep work and making it through lesson plans, I wasn’t interested in what the kids wanted to do or say. The connection between my students and me was breaking – all because I was afraid of getting to close to the kids left because at the end of the year they wouldn’t be mine anymore.

As my first year teaching, the kindergarten graduation will be a tearful event for me: full of rejoicing the growth in my students over the ten months and sadness for letting my babies go and use the wings that Ella and I are working so hard in ensuring they have to believe in themselves. But as my prep came to a close and through writing I faced what was holding me back, I realized I was going to lose precious happy moments with my scholars. Events may surprise me and set me back emotionally, but I cannot let it jeopardize my role in my scholar’s hearts.

I bounded up the steps from the staff workroom to my class to walk them to lunch; my scholars noticed my uplift immediately. Chattering scholars rushed to tell me about their Spanish lesson. Mellie held up her color wheel, all her colors correctly matching its Spanish word counterpart. Alexa, my youngest mischievous doll is very perceptive and she matched my mood change to bound over to give me a hug. She wouldn’t let me go, even when I stopped to tie another scholar’s shoelaces. She found excuses to be in the back of the line next to me and held my hand. And I know I should have been firm with her to remind her to act like a professional quiet, in-line scholar, but I needed to be reminded I was making some difference.

And I am. And I will.
When the year does come to an end when I must bid adieu, I want my scholars to know I will always be their teacher; I will always love them.

I give away so many pieces of my heart freely; the power of love regenerates my heart so I can give more pieces away. Sometimes it needs rest – some farewells are more bittersweet than others – but my faith is love. As I instill it in teaching, I know my scholars will gain lifetime confidence, perseverance and caring attributes.

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gifted

as a psychology student i never bought into free hugs
i walked around with an invisible hula hoop space
curt friendly smile, it never met my eyes
school was a mission to get through
now teaching is sharpening thinking caps
increasing brain power in a regimented schedule
i feel sympathy for my five year olds craving to play
my kiddies but a student reminds me they’re scholars
i am surprised when they put their arms around my waist
all the draining backdrop effort fades when little hearts
include me, i love you they say and i learn thank you isn’t fair
no more awkward pats on heads, hugs reward substantially
the only cure for my overwhelmed nerves

revelation #231: take care of yourself to take care of others

I’ve been trying to get ahead of my workload. Partly because since my first week of teaching I felt so overwhelmed, my brain has been rewired to be active from the moment I wake up to the moment I crash. I thrive on having work to do, tasks to accomplish. But I was told to slow down. It was ironic: the girl who procrastinated her way through assignments in both high school and college being told to hold back – I didn’t want to. Because I don’t do anything halfway – if I were to revert to my old relaxing ways, I feared I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.
This weekend had mixed results.
I spent as much time as I could with my love, as I am prone to do on my days off, and it was wonderful switching between taking naps and watching Naruto. When we were apart, I watched even more Netflix but I also ran errands, wrote, completed an assignment, and meal prepped for the majority of the week. It’s nowhere nearly close to what I wanted to get done – I always fill all the white space in my planner because I’d rather feel occupied than be busy – but as the night comes to a close and my weekly routine begins, I feel comfortable with my progress.
I’m learning to accept as a teacher there will always be work to do. I can only predict so many curve balls but the way they are pitched depend on a hand not an algorithm. I’m especially glad I got to enjoy most of my weekend – my heart will always be wondering how my scholars are over the weekend and my mind will always be beeping guilt reminders when I’m laying on my bed scrolling through Cosmo snapchat, but I have a choice. If I make the effort to retain a work-life balance, abide by it since it is solely my responsibility, then I can have it all.
But it’s still nice to have reminders so I continue to schedule breaks in my planner in my endless to-dos.

Share your blogs! I want to read more

I’ve considered changing the layout of this blog like a flicker of a light bulb. I flirted with picture changes and had trouble settling on a singular theme. None of them seemed to represent what I wanted to convey.
I’ve always been slow to move, but when the right song comes on, I have to pause the rest of my life to dance it out. All my life, I let my mom trim my hair for it to stay healthy, but my sophomore year I chopped my waves to its shortest bob above my shoulders. And it was thrilling! A glimpse of my reflection in a toaster or a tinted car window and there would be an added skip in my step like natural caffeine. I am always the turtle determined to enjoy at my own pace.
Weaknesses are always hard to admit to; indecisiveness is one of mine. But I saw a pattern in my life and deduced the larger group of friends I had, for the sake of being easy going, it was easier to conform than admit what I wanted. So when it was just me and my love or my best friend and they asked me specifically what I wanted, I didn’t know. Because I wasn’t asked that very often – and I didn’t ask myself either.
When I cut my hair to its shortest length, my friend teased me that it was a big sign of change within myself. Ironically I was getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship and the haircut did give me confidence, but I learned something bigger about myself that day: my impulsiveness and rationality were tied together. I never jump into the unknown without thinking I am ready for it.
This blog reflects me. The previous format was the Writr format, the hues black and blue-gray, I created aimlessly. The style was great for production concentration, training eyes on words, but over time it started to feel cramped.
I first got the site domain in 2013 despite not blogging with dedicated vigor until this past summer – and it was because of the very tagline. In 2013 I graduated high school and embarked into a jungle of new identities – in the friends I made and within myself. I tested limitations, challenged consequences and chose to walk through brambles than choose at the forked road. It was in my first reacquaintance with who I wanted to be that my first posts emerged – before I shyly retreated from divulging stories and truths.
Baking begins with mixing ingredients in the kitchen, hands wiped on an already-stained apron, smudges of dough on cheek – I scribbled away in journals, reclusively. Seasons changed, my job tested me with what I wanted out of life and I found myself here, sharing. Creating, putting my writing, the mushed up dough pieces in the oven, hoping for the best.
And it was edible! Not the flakiest or the butteriest, but baking perfection takes time; writing is a journey and being a part of the largest network of writers and readers gives me the gratification of a community which can empathize with that.
This blog change matches my outlook; it’s background is still dark – like all the unknown ahead of us – but the red orange lettering and blue borders are the tinges of flames of positivity. Anything is possible – if you believe in yourself strongly and purely, your goals are sure to be met.
And that’s how I found my perfect layout.