Tomorrow is my last day with students. My last day (hopefully) as a classroom teacher. If I can swing it, you all will never ever see me teach an entire class of kids all by myself ever again. (For those who don’t know, I get to go do the one kind of teaching I love a lot: English as a Second or Other Language…did you know that you do NOT have to speak someone’s language to teach them yours? There are so many cool tricks to language, I need to write a whole separate entry on how linguistics work.)
In spite of the amazingly BAD year it was, those kids and I worked our collective butts off in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic this year. I made my end-of-year goal, with about 75% making High or Expected growth on their Math SPG (Georgia’s growth test every grade level takes – they take the pre-test in August, then the same test in May to see how much they improved. This is much different and less intense than our high stakes Milestones test 3rd-5th graders take in addition to the SPG). Ninety-five percent of my kids are leaving my room reading one level below, at, or above 3rd grade level. They rocked their reading this year – who knows how that happened, other than every single morning I forced them to silently read the books in their book boxes. They are better writers (couldn’t persuade me in writing to get them a classroom pet, but they tell some really imaginative and detailed personal narratives). Didn’t make all my data or my goals, but I guess I don’t really care? The vast majority of them are ready for 3rd grade, and I’m cool with that even if the data says I didn’t work quite as hard as I could have.
But most important, I have thoroughly loved every single (okay, fine, maybe not EVERY SINGLE – almost every single) little boy and girl who’ve sat in seats in a classroom I was in charge of for the last 4 years. But I am burnt out by Big Data. I am disheartened by Massive Paperwork. I am tired, deep down to my soul, by a general malaise from the general public towards teachers. Lots of y’all give a lot of lip service to us. But you don’t put your money where your mouths are (and I’m not talking paychecks – most teachers SPEND on their classrooms, and didn’t go into the career for the gigantic bank accounts and fleet of custom Rolls Royces in their mansions’ garages).
As for me, personally, I’m way better than I was last time I posted, which was way better than the time before that that I posted, which was…you guys are familiar with how this crap goes now, right?
I saw this picture quote on Pinterest today:
It’s fairly accurate of who/what/where I am at this point on this journey. I have thorns now, everyone. Handle with care.
I don’t really like my new thorns. I am not comfortable with them just yet. My parents raised me to be soft in the world; I think because my dad saw people die in Vietnam and also once had to clean toilets at Pennsylvania Military College with his very own toothbrush. I actually don’t think these thorns I’m getting used to are a bad thing – one thing I feel pretty confident they’ll ensure is that I’ll never, ever be on my bedroom floor sobbing and shaking because of something some stinking man is saying to and/or about me. You can rest assured of that. If I am ever in a position where a man (or woman) is saying something really wrong or absolutely scaring or hurting me, I will unsheathe those thorns and I will aim for eyes and jugular. NO COMPASSION. You don’t get to scare and abuse people just cause you’re sad or whatever. NOT ACCEPTABLE.
And yet. Confession: I am still too soft. I am still too nice. I love the entirety of humans, you guys, I really do. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, be the cause of someone else’s tears, be the reason someone else feels bad about anything. I believe in expansive, inclusive, universal love. I don’t always feel like a good person. I feel like someone who’s making so many mistakes, trying to figure out what she needs to do, where she needs to go next. And I’m so very carefully trying to figure it out without making anyone but me cry. When I make someone else cry, this is when I feel like a bad person, a complete fuck up. I don’t really know where I need to be or go next at the moment, but I do know I want to love and be loved. I do know that I am a good person, in spite of being a mess of a mess. I do know I have freakishly deep wells of love inside of me.
But now I got all these damn thorns, too. sigh.
I just need to figure out a way to get comfortable with knowing they’re there, and be willing to use them again when needed. I used them a couple of weeks ago, and it felt GOOD. They were justified; I knew I was using them on someone who deserved every single goddamned bloody slash, every single effing deep puncture wound. My fear is that I’ll use them on someone who doesn’t deserve them, and that may be my next Campbellian-like challenge: figure out who the true villains are. (My favorite actor unknowingly taught me that a true villain is someone who doesn’t know they’re a villain; they think everything they do is for the greater good. This is where villains get really tricky, Internet, and you are full of them: they look and sound FABULOUS. Inside? Rotten to the core.)
So I’m not just sitting here navel gazing per usual, can I share two good things from my day with you?
Something from today that made me cry:
Miss M had her Parent Picture Day at gymnastics. She had to do this move on the bars called Upside Down Split. She’s got a weak left leg – we do foot/exercises (when I can remember) to strengthen it. So she had a really hard time keeping her left leg straight on the lower bar so her teacher could spin her up and over. She tried 3 times, couldn’t do it. After the third try, her teacher sent her to the balance beam to do something else. Miss M was in tears.
So she did her balance beam work, all sad and upset with herself. Embarrassed and angry. (We are almost twin souls, she and I – this is where parenting can be hard, because you KNOW exactly how they feel and they are so young and so little and the world is so big and mean…but you can’t rescue them. You cannot. You have to let them feel their feelings so they can figure out how they want to deal with those and whatever caused them.) After she finished on the balance beam, she ran up to me and said, “I’m going to ask her if I can try one more time, Mommy.”
And she did. She asked if she could have one more chance, the coach helped her practice keeping her left leg straight, and then they did it. She did it. I could tell it was really hard, but the look on her face…I am in tears just thinking about it. I was given a tough girl, somebody who doesn’t give up. And so the student became the master.
Something from today that made me LOL a lot:
My sister-in-law texted me a picture of a sweet calico kitten last night, with the caption “Y’all want a kitten? IT’S FREE.” I didn’t see it – M did. I was napping, and M was in violation of her grounding by even looking at the text preview on my phone’s lock screen. At any rate, she woke me up screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! It’s free!! Can we get a cat?!?! IT’S FREE!!!!”
I’d so like a free cat, you guys. I miss having a pet. I do not miss scooping poop or forking over $$$$ for vet bills or vacuuming/sweeping copious amounts of hair. But I do miss the purrs, the warmth, the sweetness. And it was free. But I can’t. I’m in a better place emotionally, so I’m pretty sure I’d remember to feed and water it. I just don’t know if I can afford it right now. So I said no. (sad face.)
However, my brother didn’t escape as easily. They went home with the calico kitten’s white brother. (Cats – so color-diverse, usually within one litter. A true lesson for humankind.) I just got to be in this whole awesome Facebook exchange about cat names, and at one point my 9 year old nephew punched a door because “Yoda” got vetoed (I suggested Obe Wan Kenobe and everyone ignored me). I’m pretty sad my brother said absolutely not to my White Ninja suggestion. I have NO idea how or where they came up with Rajesh Koothrapali, but omg I wanted to offer to come cook dinner for them if they went with someone’s suggestion of Sir Fluffikins. I’m hoping they settle on something mythical, like Pegasus or Gandalf, or something really normal like Leonard or Freddy Freeman. (I like it when people give animals people names and then talk about them like they’re really people.) I’ll clean their toilets for a month if they go with my idea of Punches with Doors, because helloooo: Native American, duh.
This exchange wasn’t as awesome as the woman laughing in the Chewbacca mask, but if you can make me laugh when I feel rather craptastic about myself and/or my life, you are immediately on my list of Most Favorite Humans EVER. If you make me laugh so hard I pee a little, I adopt you and sometimes give you treats. You have to scoop your own poop, though.