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Year-end thanks

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about how different my life is now than a year ago.  While some of the positive changes may have happened on their own, there are an incredible number of people who have helped change my life for the better this year.

Paul helped me kick off 2011.  At a point when I desperately needed someone to see me as more than a teacher – yet also needed someone to care about that part of me – he did both.  We didn’t last long, but our time together helped me find my balance again.

When Paul and I broke up, Melanie understood that my Facebook request for new activity ideas meant I was sad and she invited me to trapeze with her.  I didn’t go that night, but the invitation changed the course of my year.

Through the spring, summer, and fall, my coworkers have been there for me, unfailingly supportive and always willing to talk through classroom difficulties.  In the end, I returned for a second year because I couldn’t imagine telling them I was leaving.  And I’ve been happy with that choice.

At the trapeze school, Mandy has almost single-handedly provided the sense of belonging, significance and fun that I kept looking for in Unitarian churches and other activities but never really found.  She knows my flying better than I do and always knows exactly when to push and when to pull back.  I know that when I fly with her I don’t have to self-advocate – she’s got my back.

And there’s the rest of the staff and students at trapeze.  From my very first class they’ve welcomed me, almost literally, with open arms.  They listen to stories, give support and advice, and are completely fun to be around.  Becoming part of that community has been one of the most enjoyable developments of my post-college life.

And finally, there are my students.  It’s been wonderful to see H. blossom; it makes all of last year worth it.  This year’s class is full of such wonderful, vulnerable kids, and I am regularly humbled by the trust and love they give me, even on the days I don’t think I deserve it.  I know I’m not doing it all right, but they think I’m getting a whole lot of it right, and that’s definitely helping me sleep better.

While many of these people may come and go in my life, my family and close friends have been there every day of this year – and of the last.  They’ve dealt with my lows (and I know there were a lot), but I hope they’ve been able to share in my highs, too.

In the end, I feel like a very lucky girl, and am thankful for the happy, interesting year that’s gone by.

Keeping busy, finding new interests

April 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently broke up with someone I really liked and decided that instead of moping I needed to fill up my time learning new things and meeting new people.  Since we broke up I’ve gone ziplining, become the co-chair of my college’s regional alumni chapter, gone to a trivia night, taken an all-day bus winery tour with 40 other people, learned Mah Jongg with a  new group of friends, and started taking trampoline classes at the local trapeze school.

All this activity has been exhausting to this introvert, but it’s also been a lot of fun.  I’ve gotten out to new parts of the city, talked to lots of new people, and tried things I never thought I would do.  Plus, with school calming down and freelance work picking back up, I have a little bit more time and a little bit more money to devote to new things.  I’m beginning to think that instead of planning an ambitious getaway to another country this summer, I might take that same budget and really dive into this area instead.  It feels good to be more connected to the people and places around me instead of running off to explore another region’s attractions.

Long weekend

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

We had a three day weekend because of Columbus Day.  I’m not sure I agree with the principle, but I definitely appreciate the time off.  I feel like three days away from school (and not doing ANY work during those days) has let me puzzle over some of my classroom issues in the back of my mind.  For instance, driving home from a shopping trip with my sister today I came up with a new way to do record-keeping during my math lessons.  And while eating dinner and watching TV, I realized I need to reach out to the other first-year teachers I know and try to form a community of peers (instead of the rather intimidating community of highly-experienced teachers I currently have).

Time off is good.  It reminds me that I have a lot going on in my life besides teaching, even if teaching sometimes feels like it’s taking over my life.  I feel more confident about the week, better rested, and better able to solve whatever problems come up.

Getting out

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

While my attempt at going out Saturday was a flop, it did remind me that there are a lot of places nearby, and that I should try visiting some of them at quieter times.  Also, I came home from my dressed up wandering ready to work hard at building a life here.  Last night I signed up for several MeetUp groups, registered for an Introduction to Bouldering class at a climbing gym I’ve been wanting to check out, looked up area contra dancing opportunities, and got information on the local UU church.

This morning I went to the 11:15 service at the Unitarian church.  While I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place, I enjoyed the experience.  It’s an easy one-mile walk through residential neighborhoods to get there, the building is very pretty, and the service was thoughtful.  The lead minister appears to be an atheist, which is fascinating, thought-provoking, and somehow comforting, and the church has that sense of fellowship and goodwill that I always felt at First Unitarian in Philadelphia.  I ducked out right after the service, skipping the social time, but for now I think that’s okay.  Unstructured socializing with strangers in a setting where I don’t know the norms isn’t really my strong suit – I imagine I’ll be more willing to stay once I get a better sense of the place.

After I got back, I packed up my work things and headed to one of the local coffeeshops.  It’s always swarming with 20- and 30-somethings and I think I want to make myself one of the regulars.  They have coffee and tea during the day, then add an upstairs wine bar most evenings.  There’s free wifi and a ton of seating, and even if I don’t strike up any conversations, it feels good just to be around other people and out of my apartment.

I’m not sure if any of this will lead to new friendships, but I figure anywhere must have better odds than my apartment.

All dressed up…

October 2, 2010 1 comment

I decided to be more proactive about making friends and getting to know the area.  My plan tonight was to get dressed for going out, walk down to the local bar that both of my siblings have recommended, and have a drink.  It sounded really good as a plan, but I probably should have predicted the reality.

The reality is that busy bars overwhelm me even when I’m meeting someone.  On my own I can’t even go in.  So I turned the corner and decided to walk to a different bar to try my luck there.  I did that for about an hour and a half, walking all the way to Clarendon and back, passing dozens of bars.  Many of them looked like great places to bring a date, grab dinner with a friend, or hang out with a big group.  None of them seemed particularly good for hanging out on my own.

So now I’m back home, looking great, with sore feet and a tired spirit.  I’m not upset with myself – I know I did my best tonight, even though my best is just walking by fun places.  It’s hard to figure out how to make friends though when it seems like the only way to go out is to already have friends.

A more stable equilibrium

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Today felt a little odd.  I still feel all of the things I did yesterday – strongly and fully – but with a little less vulnerability.  That little change makes all the difference between crying most of the day and generally feeling okay.  Of course, I did a lot to try to make today better.  First, I completely changed the kids’ carpet spots. We have a big meeting area and they’d taken to lounging around in it, falling backwards, rolling sideways, and generally flopping about in ways that stopped them and the kids around them from listening.  My solution to this, perhaps counter-intuitively, was to squash them together.  I made very tightly-spaced Xs on the carpet in masking tape, then outlined the whole thing in tape lines.  The new spots mean they’re almost touching people anytime they’re sitting down…but not if they sit correctly.  Behavior was still an issue today, but oddly the confined space actually did reduce the problems.  I was also much, much harder on my two attention-seeking students and they were both relatively problem-free all morning.  The afternoon…not so much.  One of the girls comes back hyped up crazy from lunch every day.  The entire whole group math time is spent with her saying “Look!  Look!” and pointing at other children, or loudly calling out the answer no matter whose name I’ve called.  “15 after!  15 after!” rings in my ears each afternoon as she yells out where I should put the number 16.

Also today, and very unexpectedly, the literacy specialist who works with me (and with all new teachers to the school) told me, unprompted and with no knowledge of my tears, that I’m doing a great job.   I feel like I’m barely holding it together, especially in the lessons she sees me teach, so it was nice to hear that she thinks I’m doing okay.

And finally, I wrote a nice note back to Saturday’s boy and he responded in kind today, saying that I should consider myself included in any of the group outings he’s part of.  It’s not a relationship, but it might lead to friends, and friends are a really good thing to have.

In the end, today didn’t exactly feel like a good day, but it did feel a lot better than yesterday.  Of course, since yesterday is one of the lowest ponts I can ever remember hitting, I guess almost any day would have been better…

Tears…and not from the kids

September 30, 2010 3 comments

This hasn’t been a great week.  I thought yesterday was bad, when I had to stop the math lesson after 10 minutes because the students’ behavior was out of control.  Then today it got worse, as I came into my classroom from the overwhelming Language Arts planning meeting to find a new child in my room.  Then it kept going downhill as I got so flustered by the new kid that I ruined the Writing Workshop routine and the students responded by being chaotic for an hour.  Then, still flustered, I tried to start my Reading lesson but ended up in a stand-off with last week’s new student over a hat – her third stand-off with a teacher that morning.  As the rest of the class watched, awestruck, the literacy specialist decided to march her down to the office.  The office tried to blame it on the student not knowing English, but the specialist was very clear: “she knows exactly what she’s doing.”

I had been looking forward to the kids being away for an hour at art, but instead of having a chance to calm down, I realized I had no idea what my afternoon math lesson would be and didn’t even know how to make a plan for it.  I slowly pulled myself together and managed a semblance of a plan and sat in the dark in my room, crying, while I drew 17 happy face and frowny face charts to use for sorting in groups of 10.  Then about 10 minutes before I had to pick my kids up from lunch I checked my email and saw that the guy I hit it off with this weekend – the first guy I’ve liked in over a year and a half – doesn’t think we should see each other again.  On a good day I might have felt disappointed.  Today, I literally sobbed in the corner of my classroom until it was time to pick the kids up from lunch.

I know I wasn’t crying just because of him, or even just because of a crappy week and a crappy morning.  I was crying (then and now) because it was the nth day of feeling completely overwhelmed at how unstoppable and inescapable my current life choices are.  For better or worse, this classroom is my life until the end of June.  No matter how I feel each day, I have to keep getting up and coming in.  No matter how often I feel completely overwhelmed and lost and like I’m failing the kids and overmatched as a teacher, I have to keep coming in.  Even if I become a kind of teacher I never wanted to be and never thought I’d become, I have to keep coming in.  It doesn’t stop.  The days don’t stop coming and the kids don’t stop talking, moving, and needing.

And I know I cry because as I struggle with everything that school is and does, I also struggle to figure out my non-school life.  I’m good at entertaining myself, but I had this glimpse of what’s possible on Saturday and, man, I want it.  I want smart, funny friends to hang out with and a guy who thinks I’m awesome.  I want to feel some sense of possibility for a future that includes a husband and a family.  I don’t want to keep waking up, for years of days of end, just getting through to tomorrow.

I knew that the first year of teaching would be hard, but I thought it would be hard like student teaching was hard – setting high standards for myself and my kids and doing what it took to meet them.  Instead, this is hard in so many ways I didn’t even know would exist.  I told myself during student teaching to hold on to that feeling of “rightness” that I felt when I was with the class.  I felt so often then that I was doing what I was born to do.  Right now though I just feel like I’m barely surviving.  Right now, this isn’t the work I want to be doing and it isn’t the life I want to be living.  I’m hopeful that something will shift and I start to feel better about my choices, but right now I just feel overwhelmed.

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