Friday, August 21, 2015

Take a deep, brave breath

Welcome back!

First of all, I mean it's been two years since I last blogged. I've never considered myself a writer, but I do consider myself an advocate and hence I blog as a way to help others see the world of teaching from my personal, unique teacher perspective. And when I do write, it's always sparked from within my heart, and translates to the world the deep emotion I feel connected with my teaching. Teaching is above all else for me a work of heart, my life, and my contribution to the world.

Welcome, back! This time I mean school, of course! In this part of the country school doesn't officially  begin until after Labor Day (or around Labor Day) but most teachers start having those Back to School dreams right about now. I started having mine back in May because I'm changing grade levels. Four grade levels. As a friend pointed out to me just yesterday, I've taught primary for almost twenty years but now I'm totally skipping intermediate and going straight to middle school. That's right! I'm headed from second to sixth. I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way, but I'm completely terrified.

Okay, don't worry! I'm incredibly excited, too. Since May I have experienced a plethora of mixed emotions about the upcoming school year. About eight years ago I took a deep, brave breath and transferred schools and moved up one grade level. I knew at the time that I was ready for a change, ready to be bold, and needed to find a place where I could learn and improve my pedagogy. Lucky for me, Zoller school was just that place since it was involved with a grant to improve literacy. What luck!, I thought. I can change grade levels and learn more about how to teach reading. The excitement I felt for learning the new curriculum and teaching methods was thrilling! I feel that same way now for sixth grade. (Except I'm not yet officially receiving any training, but hopefully something will come my way soon...uh hmmm, hopefully math training will come my way, soon!)

But here's the hitch: this year is a HUUUUGGGEEE change (insert Billy Fucillo's voice here; NY folks, you know what I mean!). One grade up- bah! That's nothing. Primary curriculum-hah! Don't we all know our major U.S. Holidays? Can't everyone spell "what"? (No.) (p.s. Teaching reading to little ones is hard!) I'm not saying that teaching primary is easy. What I am saying is that it WAS brave to make a change and I recommend everyone should do it occasionally to sharpen their skills, but this change is exponentially different from my usual. I am about to venture way outside my comfort zone. And that is what terrifies me.

It's terrifying to look at ratios and rates compared to greater than/less than. It's terrifying to read The House on Mango Street versus An Extraordinary Egg. It's terrifying to think about teaching writing reading responses to prepare for a test ALL YEAR instead of teaching alliteration in poetry. It's terrifying to consider teaching Earth Materials and Processes instead of the Life Cycle of a Butterfly. It's terrifying because as I write these words I know how much I don't know! And's also exhilarating.

Let's go back to terrifying once more. Hormones. Enough said.

So as I drink my coffee, watch the news, and get ready to go work in my classroom and by the way also meet one of my students, the flood of emotions is ever present: fear, excitement, insecurity. In many ways I feel like a new teacher again.

But it's good. This is good. Despite the knots in my stomach I know this is good. This is an opportunity to stretch my teaching muscles much further than I would have had I stayed in primary. I have the chance to transform my teaching and myself in an unanticipated way. And most importantly, I can make a difference with a whole new group of little humans, a group who is impressionable and vulnerable and in need of a good, strong, caring teacher. I can do that. I can care, and I will be strong, and I'll do everything I can to be good, too.

And I know you will, too. I wish all teachers out there the best of luck in this new year. Thank you for your dedication, your bravery, and for everything you do for our students.

In closing I want to share a quote that inspires me. A courageous teacher/speaker actually shared this quote at the NNSTOY conference this summer, but it bears repeating:

Like a small boat in the ocean
Sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

(-Rachel Platten)

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