4/17/14

Return to My Proffession--My Messy Beautiful


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

I am a forty something, mom of three, wife of 17 years who is  currently trying to break back into the field of teaching after 10 years learning how to parent three tricky students of my own! ( I think this post describes that time best) It has been a messy beautiful process that has carried me to this point in my life (and has inspired this blog).  At this moment, I am no longer just along for the ride, to see where it will take me, yet I use that skill to ride out the bumps.  I am making choices and digging in to reach my goal, and I have confidence that I will reach it.  I am looking at ‘little obstacles’, like not getting the job I applied for, as stepping stones and learning experiences .  Life’s classroom is so rich!

I began as a straight A high school student who Flunked Out of my first year at University--and I didn't even party!!  But I did have an overly controlling boyfriend--Can you say worst year of college ever?!  I followed that year with a summer art course, "just for fun." but that led me to completing an art program at a local community college where I decided I wanted to teach.  The pivotal moment was the moment it struck me, really struck me, that here I was learning about making art with a bunch of other folks my age and older, and wow, Isn’t that something!  Whether or not I had a gift for art, or ever became famous, I was learning how to create something from my heart, mind and soul.  I was learning how to learn, and that was a gift itself.

When I was younger, even just a few years earlier, I had somehow arrived at the notion that people were born to be artists.  I truly felt since I had not found my own art yet, I must have missed the boat, I was doomed to be a gas station attendant, and that was that.  It was quite dismal really, because I really could only see everything I hadn’t yet done as untraveled roads already barricaded to me.  I really had a hard time seeing possibilities back then.  When I chose to teach, it was because I really wanted young kids to see and learn about “what could be” for them, I wanted to open doors, and remove baracades. I thought of the time I spent already, just in my youth, feeling like I had missed a boat or many boats, and I reflected on the waste in a way that moved me forward, and motivated me to want to move others forward as well.  
   
I did open doors.  I taught many children to read and write.  My six and sevens wrote and rewrote stories, participated in poetry readings, danced and let their minds be guided into both growth and relaxation.  There were opportunities for all to shine.  I fell prey to a “reduction in force” just when I felt I was hitting my stride.  I was really picking up steam, trained as a reading interventionist and using those skills in the classroom to really boost my students’ literacy learning.  But in my usual form, I took this as a sign, I should take some time at home with my newborn baby, which eventually became my three children over a span of ten years.  I regretfully watched my teaching certification fly off into inactive status when my third child, a daughter was born, but honestly even without her, my return would have been postponed.

My oldest had hit kindergarten by then and the very verbal little boy who we were sure would love school was struggling wildly with odd things like sitting at circle to sing songs, and what one teacher dubbed “buzzing” around the room.  He was sent to the office frequently for social faux pas and skirmishes, and the dreaded "lack of empathy".  By first grade I was solely engrossed in figuring out what was causing our curious motivated learner at home to become a distressed mess at school.  You know that mom you see storming into school determined and wide eyed, she scares everyone a little, she is so so angry . . .?  That was me. . .  Getting help for my son was a nightmare of roadblocks that to this day make no sense to me, I was stressed beyond belief.  As strange as it sounds, it snuck up on me! I jumped, dodged and pushed to get past the blockades and eventually got the former nay sayers on board and found a place where my boy could not just survive, but thrive.  Then I had to get myself and my family back on track.  Regular excercise and outlets for mom rose in importance. I have had to work past that "trigger time" in the mornings when my son would set up for battle over going to school.  I had to learn to breath, learn to breath, learn to breath.  If someone isn't ready or can't find something as we are going out the door, I still need to remind myself, this is a little bump, no big deal, we will get there. . . because my brain wants to freak out as if we were back in that time three years ago.  But today's bumps have nothing to do with then.  

Along the way, I learned a lot about myself, and my teaching self.  I learned never to give up excercise and healthy habbits because I am too busy "solving a problem", (because that just causes another problem some place else!) I recognized some faulty assumptions I once made as a young teacher, and learned how to make other theories I felt in my heart come to life "Children do well if they can, not just if they want to." became my new mantra stripped straight from the pages of  Dr.Ross Greene's (author of  books.  I read, and worked, found jobs where I could use my teaching skills even if they weren’t the coveted “teacher” role and have begun learning the ins and outs of twenty first century public education, and at the same time realize that the "good teaching practices" I have under my belt never go out of style.

I even interviewed for a “dream job” at a tiny ruralish local school, but besides my brain going into flight mode for most of the interview. << I soo wish I could blog my way through interview!  I would just reply to questions with, please see blog post # 17 where I discussed this at length. :))>> When they asked why I wanted to work there, I really had no good, honest answer.  In that ridiculous moment right In the interview, I realized I really didn’t want to work there!  It suddenly seemed too small, too homogeneous and I knew I would miss the diversity I had found working in a larger school the previous year.  Umm. . .yeah, interview did not go so well.  My husband says everything I feel at any moment washes acrossed my face all day long, maybe I need some of that "Pokertox" or whatever it was called. . . some Doctor invented it to help poker players keep a straight face while holding a royal flush!!  Imagine the possibilities?!  

So instead, I found a part time one on one position in a district where many people don’t want to work, a huge number of administrators left 8 to 10 years ago, school choice has resulted in a hemmorage of students out of the district to places not unlike the one where my own son suffered, (honestly struggled is not a big enough word to describe what my son and our family went through there). So I  am hoping to find a place here in this recovering district, with soon to be hired new superintendent, where diversity is wide and possibilities for the future are many.  They are in flux, and where there is change there will ultimately be growth, I am excited to be there to help.

Yet here I am, the mom of now 11 years, trying to work my way back in to the profession I love.  As much as I want to convey confidence, and truly I am confident that this work is mine to do, I get this little niggling feeling of doubt when I begin this job search process.  The back of my neck tightens, my jaw sets and I fear it will never happen, that due to "mind in flight" during interviews, I will be seen as a wannabe teacher who just happens to have a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Design, intensive training in reading intervention/instruction, and a newly approved teaching liscence under my belt.  And I forget that I jumped into full time work and completed three college level courses in education to get my liscence back, and that I enjoyed, almost, every minute of it.  I forget that I have been going into schools and feeling like I am home for the past couple years working with other teachers and educators of all kinds.   I forget that I have patience for the kids who most everyone loses patience with, because I want to treat them the way I hope my own children will evermore be treated.  I forget my toolbox continues to be filled by yours truly, as I continue searching for more ways to help children succeed in more diverse ways. I forget that I have a gift of my own, for seeing into the hearts of children and helping create a place in school where they can learn and grow and create something from the heart, mind and soul, and that is a gift to them.  I forget that I am determined to teach them how to learn, how to think like a learner, how to act like a learner, how to be a learner. . .  I just need to remember, keep the confidence, brain power and appropriate facial expressions through an entire interview and pray for the best!

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