Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Uniquely Burdened"

Last week, I spent the whole week at UALR's AP Summer Institute.  It's an opportunity to learn AP strategies, and teaching strategies in general, from other practicing teachers.  It's also an opportunity to meet teachers from all over the state and hear about their teaching experiences.  One teacher I met there was a woman about my age who had just finished her first year of teaching in Dumas as a Teach for America teacher.  In talking to her about her year, I found out that she, too, was a blogger, and I decided to check out her blog.  In reading her most recent entry, I ran across a term that struck me as applicable to so many aspects of life beyond teaching. 

In this entry, she talked about being in a meeting with other Teach for America teachers who were discussing the ways in which teachers are "uniquely burdened."  Teachers, and I can agree with this wholeheartedly, have this immense personal burden of educating the future of our nation.  I am perfectly aware that the statement I just made sounds melodramatic and maybe even a little silly, but it's true.  Not only do teachers have to produce results on yearly tests, we also have to produce intelligent, productive citizens.  Talk about pressure!

Anyway, this phrase, "uniquely burdened" has been bouncing around in my mind all week.  Sure, teachers feel uniquely burdened, but don't we all feel uniquely burdened everyday?  I think about how many times a week I say "I'm tired," like I'm the only human being who has ever given up sleep to complete a project or fit everything into my day.  I'm not uniquely burdened in my exhaustion. People all over the world work a lot harder than me and probably have a lot less of a payoff.  What makes me feel so "uniquely burdened," so alone in my problem?

I tried to figure that out this week.  Anytime I would start to feel sorry for myself or feel overwhelmed, I reminded myself of how many other people were probably feeling just like me at that particular moment.  Maybe I didn't know them, but I knew there had to be other people with my problem.  No man is an island, and no problem exists in isolation.  The more I thought about my own daily, unique burdens, the more I realized that my problems were so small.  Not only do other people have my problems, but some people would gladly trade in their problems to have mine.  I may be burdened, but I am also so blessed.  My parents are still married and love each other very much.  I have a job and wonderful friends.  I wonder sometimes how I find so much to complain about when I look at my life this way.  So this week, my goal is to remember that I may feel uniquely burdened, but I'm also uniquely blessed.  As human beings, we are so drawn to negativity and the drama that surrounds it.  This week, I will remember that I'm not alone.  And I will value the good things, because there are so, so many of them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Just a Breath Away

I started going to yoga since my last post.  By that I mean I've gone twice.  However, I have great intentions about going regularly, or at least once a week.  Of course, I also have good intentions about blogging regularly, and we see how well that goes.....Anyway, I started going to yoga, because my mom kept going on and on about how much she loved it, what a great workout it was, and how calming she found the practice.  Therefore, I decided to improve on my own  sense of inner peace, which has lately been more of a sense of inner chaos with an ever-growing to-do list looming over my head.

My first yoga class was what I would like to classify as cardio-yoga.  While it was definitely not boot camp, kick-your-tail style cardio, I was seriously sweating by the end of the hour.  As much as I love a good workout, I didn't achieve that calming feeling I was hoping to find in my new yoga practice.  Instead, I found sore muscles the next day....this girl hadn't stretched in a while!  The following Thursday, I attended a restorative yoga class in the evening.  It had been a really, really long day, and I thought maybe this would be a way to turn around the negative attitude that had been growing throughout the afternoon.

Bingo! Restorative yoga did the trick.  It was a very small, very relaxed class, which was fantastic, but it was what the instructor said during the class that really helped me more than my less than perfect child's pose or downward dog.  Toward the end of class, she reminded us to keep our eyes closed and said, "Everything you need is only a breath away.  Courage, peace, patience; everything you need is only a breath away."  Talk about hearing just what I needed!  I have a tendency to get so caught up in all my thinking and list-making that I just increase my stress level twofold by narrowing my focus to all the plethora of tasks that need to be done.  I forget to breathe.

Today, I sat down to plan out my lessons for the year.  Staring me in the face were ten sheets of paper for the ten months of the year I have to plan out.  This task has been looming over me for about three weeks now, and I keep putting it off in hopes that it will complete itself.  "Peace is just a breath away, Jessica."  I took a deep breath and dove in.  I can happily report that the task is halfway done.

Now, I'm not dumb.  I know a simple breath can't fix every situation.  Were I to rear-end a car at a stoplight, I'm pretty positive I couldn't take a deep breath and avoid a traffic ticket and a disgruntled, angry person from the car in front of me.  However, it is a step toward changing my outlook on a situation.  When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or angry or whatever, the easier option is to keep it all pent up inside, but I'm trying to learn to breathe.  I just have to remember that everything I need is just a breath away.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Real Education

This past Thursday and Friday, I officially started my new teaching job with two days of staff development.  On Wednesday, I was so excited about going in, meeting the teachers, and getting started.  In my typical optimistic and idealistic way, I couldn't wait to hit the ground running.  On Thursday morning, about 30 minutes into our meeting, I felt like I might throw up.  Being a teacher is wayyyyy overwhelming.  Between test scores and modifications and grading and test prep and lesson planning and organizing my classroom, I can officially say that this will be a working summer.  Whoever said teachers get the summer's off does not remember the summer before he became a teacher.  Now don't get me wrong, I feel like I was so well prepared by my college of ed.  I also feel like I am going to love my job, but on Thursday morning I felt like I was sinking into a very large to-do list of seemingly insurmountable tasks.

Then, I went home and talked to my sister, who wisely reminded me that "every teacher has had a first day and a first year.  If they can make it, then surely you can, too."  Thanks, girl.  Way to motivate!  I went to bed ridiculously early on Thursday night, determined to have a better attitude and a calmer spirit on Friday morning.  I woke up extra early, and started packing up books for my classroom library and folders and binders and anything I thought would have a better home in my classroom than on my mess of a home office desk.  This, I told myself, was the first step to feeling comfortable--moving stuff.  I then proceeded to (almost) make myself late, when I had to make four trips from my car to my house because I kept forgetting things.  This series of trips culminated in the spilling cup of an entire cup of coffee on my passenger seat.  AWESOME, Jessica.

Unwilling to be deterred in my optimism, I took a deep breath and went to school.  "Every teacher has had a first day and a first year.  If they can make it, then surely you can, too."  Friday, unlike Thursday, was fantastic!  I work with a truly amazing group of people, who really do want to help me be a good teacher.  I just had to remind myself that all I have to do is ask questions.  There's a great Mark Twain quote that says, "Don't let schooling interfere with your education."  I think I kind of told myself that I was supposed to know everything on the front end.  That's why I went to college.  But my real education of how to be an educator is only beginning.  I'm sure I'll learn plenty of new real-life lessons, just like I did when I student taught (don't worry, I already know not to wear skinny jeans on casual Fridays), and I can't wait to share them on here.  After being in limbo for six months, it feels good to push my energy into a project.  So here I go.  I may be facing a year of the unexpected, but I can't wait to see what all of that unexpected will be.