A Letter to Future Teachers: Words of Encouragement

I was talking to my brother the other day about teaching, where things have been and where they might be going. He brought up the fact that my niece wanted to be a teacher, but was worried about doing so. She’s active on social media and has witnessed the struggles that I have gone through trying to decide if I wanted to continue teaching.

People are so hard on teachers and teaching right now. We are in the middle of a war between what is best for our children and what makes the most money for businesses. Our elected officials use education as platforms to further their careers, often to the detriment of those who education is supposed to help. I am not even going to get started on the devaluing of education itself. It’s important to realize that the current environment is doing nothing to create new teachers. If anything, it’s driving them away.

I haven’t been helping. At all.

I’m changing that right now. This is my letter to future teachers. There is hope. Believe in yourself and your love of your students.

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Dear future teacher,

I know that times are hard now in the world of education. I know that you may think that it isn’t worth it to enter into the politics of the educational system. And the kids… oh, the kids. You read about how horrible they are, how disrespectful, how disruptive they are. There is even video evidence of their horribleness. It’s no wonder that you’re doubting.

I am writing this to tell you that these things are just a tiny drop in the ocean of education. Yes, it is stressful right now as the government plays tug-of-war using the education system as a rope. Yes, there are some kiddos that are… well… jerk-faces. Some adults are too. It comes with living in society. Unless you want to be a hermit, you’re going to have to deal with it. It’s so much easier to forgive a 15-year old for being an asshole than it is to forgive a 35-year old for acting 15.

Teaching is so much more. It is being there for a young man whose parents are in the midst of an angry divorce, putting him in the middle of it. It is working with a colleague who cares about the kids as much as (maybe even more so than) you do. It is hearing your name screamed across the aisles of the grocery store because you’ve affected that child’s life so much that they are excited to see you outside of school.

Teaching is encouraging the parents of a child who is struggling. Every parent wants what is best for their child, but many don’t know what to do when their child is lost. I have had so many wonderful meetings with parents that started out with tears and frustration and ended with smiles and hope. Teachers have the tools to guide parents and students when they struggle.

Teaching is standing up and fighting for the needs of your students. You are the buffer, their line of defense, holding back well-meaning but misinformed next-best-thing strategies that are supposed to fix education. You translate their “failures” into jumping off points. You protect the children and help them to succeed in spite of the obstacles that the government and administration tosses in front of them.

Teaching is knowing that you are making a difference every day. Every single day. You may not know it at the time, but what you do sticks in your students’ minds. They remember you. They grow because of you.

Teaching is a service. It is often thankless, especially on a day-to-day basis. If you feel that you are called to be a teacher, don’t decide not to because of what you read online or see on television. Those stories always ignore the most important part of education, the essential element that makes it all possible:

the individual

My life has been enriched by my years as an educator. I’ve grown to understand so much about myself and about life because of it. I will never, ever, ever regret my thirteen years as an educator. EVER.

Be a teacher. The world needs you.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Embarking on my New Adventure

I have been a teacher for 13 years. It is a huge part of my identity. People ask me, “What do you do?” and I answer that I am a teacher. There is no explanation required. Even though they don’t really understand all that being a teacher entails, they still have an ideal of what I do. It is a known entity. For 13 years, I’ve labeled myself “teacher.” I know who I am because I am a teacher.

Now that I’ve decided to leave the profession, I am not sure who I am anymore.

I don’t have the crutch of pointing to my teacher label when I meet new people.

Hello

 

I have to rediscover who I am. It is exciting and yet completely terrifying.

I don’t know where I am heading. Will I be able to find a convenient label for myself? If so, what will it be? Director of Something Something? Project Management Specialist? Will my new label be one that people understand, one that I don’t have to explain? My husband’s title at work tells me nothing about what he does. In fact, for the first few years of our marriage, people would ask me what he does and I would just answer with a jumble of words that I’d heard him say (sorry, love). I have more of an idea now, but we’ve been together forever.

Do I even need a label anymore?

I am at a point in my life that makes me want to give a one-finger salute to all the people who want me to conform. For most of my life, I’ve done the conventional thing. I went to college, got a degree, got a job in a respectable career, got married, had a child, etc. I’m so glad that I did all of these things. I have been blessed with stability and support from so many people.

Now, I am not sure if I want as much stability. I don’t want a contract tying me to a position for nine months. I am not even sure I want a go-to-work-from-7-to-330 job. Those of you who know me personally understand how much of a stretch this is for me. I’ve thrived on consistency and stability.

I want to take risks. I want to do things that I was afraid of doing, like working freelance or going on occasional day trips by myself. Heck, I want to go on spontaneous weekend trips with my family. I want to have no itinerary and just drive until we get somewhere interesting and stop there. These are things that I could not have done two years ago.

My heart aches for adventure and thrills at the thought of embarking on this new journey. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

~E

Bully For You by Amy Durant

Amazing.

- as Others -

I can’t watch movies or television shows where someone’s being bullied. If there’s bullying going on, I either hide my eyes, or steel myself, sitting very still, frozen, waiting for it to be over; not over for the character, but for myself.

It may end for the character, but it never ends for me.

Nowadays, they teach kids about how bad bullying is from a very young age. There are classes, starting with the primary grades. How not to bully, how to handle being bullied, how to handle seeing someone being bullied. The psychology of the bullies. The psychology of those bullied. The psychology of those who silently go along with the bullies, afraid, if they don’t, they’ll become one of the victims themselves. Reports I get from people in the school system are mixed as to how well these programs are working. I think it’s good the awareness is…

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Candelight Vigil for Autistic Children who’ve Lost their Lives Wandering

My friend Danielle at ProfMomEsq invited me to an event on FB that I thought I would share with you.

Jill over at Yeah. Good Times. is a blogger who is dedicated to raising awareness about autism. Here is what she wrote:

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This event is a virtual candlelight vigil to remember and respect the lives of autistic children who have died after an elopement.

The Kennedy Krieger Institute reported in a 2011 study that up to 48% of all children with autism will engage in wandering behavior or “elopement,” which is defined as the tendency to leave a safe space and enter into a potentially dangerous one, and is a rate 4 times higher than their neurotypical siblings.

The Krieger Institute also reported that “35% of families with children who elope report their children are “never” or “rarely” able to communicate their name, address, or phone number by any means.”

In 2012, the National Autism Association reported that “accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement.”

This vigil is being organized to spread awareness of the very real issue of wandering behavior in autistic children and the unspeakable tragedies that can, and have occurred as a result.

Please join us in respectful remembrance of the children who have died.

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I can’t even imagine what it feels like to lose a child. It is even harder to imagine what it feels like to worry about your child wandering off. Please send a little prayer, positive energy, good thoughts — whatever it is you do — to the families who have lost someone precious.

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Eyebrow Wax, Anyone?

I went to get a pedicure with my mom, niece, and daughter this week. We haven’t done it in a while, and it was so much fun hanging out with them. My niece– a stunning 15-year old– has grown into quite an amazing young lady, especially since she was only 11 last year.

My experience was better than theirs, though. I had the best nail tech ever. It was absolutely fabulous. Here are highlights from conversations with the lady who was doing mine:

Conversation #1
LADY: You need wax eyebrows?
ME: No, thank you.
LADY: No, you NEED wax eyebrows. I will do.
ME: No. I like my eyebrows the way they are.
LADY: [looks at me with the you-are-a-crazy-lady look]

Conversation #2
LADY: You have too much. [pointing to my heels and tut-tut-tutting]
ME: Pardon?
LADY: [showing me the dead skin in the callous-removal-tickle-torture device] You have too much. You need to put vaseline and socks. [shakes head with disbelief]

Conversation #3
LADY: [leading me to the front] You sure you don’t need eyebrows?
ME: I’m pretty sure I don’t.
LADY: [looks at me with the you-are-a-crazy-lady look again]

I know that some people would find this offensive, but I don’t. I figure that she cared enough about my beauty to get a little bit tetchy about it. Plus, it gave me wondrous blog fodder.

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My first post since January and it is one about a pedicure. WTF? I have had tons of ideas, just not the time to sit and write them down. They’re still running around in my brain and will come out soon. Enjoy this in the meantime. I know I did. 🙂

Hello, 2013. Thanks for Visiting.

Ode to 2013

2013 is a year that taught
me copious lessons. It brought
hope and some trepidation,
faith and some affirmation.
A bounty of choices demanded attention,
giving my simple life greater dimension.
An unheard of act of risk taking
led to an act of decision making.
I cried, I cheered, and I laughed
(What the hell is a mosquito craft?
This rhyming dictionary is weird.
)
I frequently disappeared,
sinking into my protective shell
dealing with change and doing it well.
Today I celebrate the good
in 2013, just like I said I would.

__________________________

At the beginning of the year last year, I made a “Resolution to be Successful.” My goal was to concentrate on the great things that happened throughout the year. I had never done it before– usually ending the year with a “thank goodness it is over” feeling. I was tired of living my life, waiting for the year to end so I can start afresh. It was time to realize that every day is a fresh day and I needed to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. I made a jar and I filled the jar with wonderful things so I could write about them at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy my adventures.

Family

I am thankful every gosh darn day for my family. Without them, I would not have as much joy in my life. They keep me from staying in the darkness when I’m depressed, and still love me when I spend extra time there. Here are some highlights.

  • We have a little raised garden in our back yard. It has become a family project. Every season, we clean it out, hand till it, and plant it. Pretty much every season, we end up with very few veggies– they get creature-eaten or frost-bitten or die in the hot, hot sun. Yet we continue to do it. There is something about sticking your hands in the earth that reminds you how connected you are to everything around you.
  • The girl figured out how to tie her shoes. It may seem like a little thing, but she was determined to never learn how– at least not from me. Thank goodness Hubs has the patience of a saint or she’d still be in Velcro shoes. Now if we could get her to keep them tied…
  • We were able to send the girl to Camp Invention. It is a week-long critical thinking/problem-solving day camp. She learned so much, including how to work with others to solve real-life problems. It was fabulous listening to her stories about what she learned. Her excitement was palpable.
  • We took two camping trips. I am not very fond of camping, but I like to be outside with my friends and family. The first trip was with my brother, niece, and nephew. I had so much fun during the day. It was fabulous being with them in a different setting than the living room. I want to do it again with them before my brother moves on to his fellowship and my niece and nephew go to college (or wherever– no pressure, guys). The second time was with my BFF, Jen. It was freezing and relaxing and wonderful (for camping, anyway). We did decide that next time we’d camp in a motel. It’s so much better that way.
  • We actually had some weather this year. I love it when we have weather in the desert. After one seriously rainy day, the girl and I played in the puddles until she had mud up to her eyeballs. It was so glorious letting loose and getting dirty. I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

There are so many more, but I know that it’s important to keep posts short so people read to the end. 🙂 Maybe I’ll do a part deux.

Educational

Both my husband and I are pursuing degrees– his is a B.S. and mine is an M.A. I’m so proud of us for managing school, work, and family without wanting to hit each other in the shin. With a car. I celebrate the following:

  • After a bazillion years of study, I am so close to the end, I can see it. I submitted my application for graduation. This does not mean that I am done, but it does mean that, if I take the last FOUR classes that are required, I can graduate at the end of the summer term. FOUR CLASSES! I really need to be done because I’ve got such a serious case of senioritis (mastersitis?) that it makes my eyes burn.
  • I had to take a graduate research class. It was horrible and felt pointless to me. Focusing on the positive: I had one of my favorite professors again, I earned an A, and it is another class down. Only FOUR more to go!
  • I took the summer off. It was fabulous spending the time with my family. Even though it put me a little behind, I needed it. I still only have FOUR more classes until I’m done.
  • My degree program is online, so I miss the face-to-face interaction that I enjoyed with I was getting my B.A. This last semester, I had a colleague taking the same classes. It was wonderful! I had someone to bounce ideas off of for the first time in a bazillion years. I wish he was going to take my final FOUR classes with me, but he isn’t. Still– I had someone to kvetch with… er, share ideas with.

In case you didn’t notice, I have only FOUR classes left until I’m done. Not that I’m excited or anything. Not me. Not at all.

Professional

This is the aspect of my life that changed the most. This is where I took a leap and let the Universe catch me. I don’t generally do that because of my anxiety. Here are some of the positives:

  • I finally said no more to the job that was disintegrating my being. I was turning into a person who I didn’t enjoy being and it affected every aspect of my life.
  • I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a debilitating panic attack thinking about going to work. After I decided it was time for a change, I began to repair myself. This was the first sign that it was working.
  • I got a new job. Even though I felt beaten down and almost destroyed, I was able to keep my head straight during interviews. Even though I felt like a fraud, I was able to tell potential employers how wonderful I was. It worked. If you want to read about it, I wrote a couple of posts about it: Part One and Part Two.
  • I made a decision about my professional goals. The public education system no longer suits me. I can’t do what they ask me to and still live with myself. I finally decided to leave the public school system. After 13 years, I am taking a break from it. I may come back, I may not. It just depends on where life takes me. Once again, when I made that decision, another layer of anxiety and fear disappeared. Once again, I have no fear that my decision is the wrong one. I have no clue what the future may bring and that doesn’t scare me. Weird for someone who’s live her life in fear that she’ll make the wrong decision and destroy the world.
  • Hubs attends one of Embry Riddle’s satellite campuses. He is good friends with the director there. They are in desperate need of English teachers. Hubs has worked his magic and there is a great possibility that I will be teaching some classes for them when I’ve completed my M.A. (FOUR more classes!). This is a wonderful opportunity and I hope it comes to fruition. I’m trying not to want it so much.

I haven’t felt so sure of myself professionally in a very long time. I am thankful for the year that passed and am definitely looking forward to the future possibilities.

Other Awesome Stuff

Not everything fits into lovely categories, so here is the potpourri of great things that happened this year that don’t fit anywhere else.

  • I got a new, used car. It is the car that I’ve always wanted. It has a sun roof and, because I’m spoiled, brand new speakers and a kick-ass radio. It also only started with 30,000 miles. Because it’s a Toyota, I will get to enjoy it for many, many miles to come.
  • I’m getting crafty up in the hizzouse. I started crocheting again, something that relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Hubs got me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’ve already made myself a purse. Creating is such a wonderful feeling and I am glad that I’m doing it again.
  • I was brave enough to put my writing out there. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2012, I had a mostly, sort-of finished manuscript. I’ve been sitting on it, fearful of letting it go into the world. I decided to share it. There are so many plot holes and loose ends that I need to tie together. I wasn’t able to do so objectively. Hopefully it’ll get worked out. Either that or my readers will tell me that it’s too convoluted in its current state and will need to be disemboweled and reanimated in another configuration. I’m comfortable with either possibility.
  • One of my students graduated this year. This young lady has been in my life since she was a sixth grader. I love her like she was my daughter. I’m so proud of who she has become. She honored me so much when she asked me to escort her to senior night basketball game. Her mother and I proudly stood next to her before her final game of her senior year. I felt truly blessed that I meant so much to her that she asked me to be there. Teachers don’t always see how they affect their students’ lives. Chelley made sure that I knew.

There are so many other things, but brevity is the soul of wit (so they say).

The Girl’s Celebration

The girl was so excited to participate in this project. For the first seven days. Because she was six. I told her I’d post everything that she wrote down. Here it is:

  • “I have school.”

She’s so awesome.

Final Thoughts

This was a great exercise for me. I am thankful for my blogger friend Danielle for making the commitment to do this with me. If it had not been for her, I am pretty sure I would have stopped writing the good things down about the same time that the girl lost interest. I’ve decided that I am going to do it again in 2014. I think it is part of the reason why I’ve been able to make the positive changes in my life. It helped me live in the moment.

__________________________

Resolve to be successful

Reaching

I am not to be
the poet that sits
and drinks scotch
reaching for the glass
bottom of life.

I cannot find truth
in ice cubes, love
in a wilted paper
napkin, beauty in
the ring left on the table.

My toast is not
for others to hear.

I perch on the stool,
vapors hovering,
the mists of poems
unwritten. I want to
catch them, savor them
as they slide, burning
cold, down my throat,
settling in my soul.

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