Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For all the teachers, band directors and coaches out there

Being a teacher/coach/mentor is hard these days. I don't know about you, but sometimes when things are not going as I hoped, I wonder why the heck I do what I do. I'm getting too old to mash my hands with a saber blade!

But then things like this happen. Today I received a message on Facebook from a former student when I taught special education full time at Sheridan High School. I remember this student well. He was not easy or even pleasant to have in class, refusing to participate and gladly turned in blank exams and homework assignments. He'd disrupt my class every few minutes with James Bond trivia. I tried to hook him into learning by having him write Bond scripts for me pertaining to health. I think it was the writerly connection that kept me from totally losing it with him.

Yesterday I got a message.

Here's a piece from the letter:

As for school, I kind of regret not focusing in your classes in 9th grade especially health class. Perhaps I found it difficult to do or just wasn't used to asking for help and that's why I ended up quiting. But I learned over these years that if you didn't keep going or if you didn't ask for help and just quit, you miss out on a lot of opportunities especially in life. I have now vowed and dedicated myself to be more open and willing to work even if it is a challenge. My philosophy I think is "Don't think about how difficult it is, just get it done" and after you get it done, you feel like you have made a huge difference instead of doing nothing and sitting there thinking that it is no big deal whether you get it done or not.

Anyway, I'll talk to you later.
This student was a freshman in my health class at least six years ago. SIX YEARS.

I consider my years of full-time teaching my "dark years". The four years of my life I proved to myself that I am a total and utter failure in the classroom. After I left teaching, I sunk into a depression believing I failed. I believed I wasted years and years of my life pursuing a teaching career that was no longer.

Two and a half years ago I had this experience w/ a former student and band kid: Redeeming the Past. This still grips me. It was dramatic and profound. Take a moment to read it.

A short note from a former guard kid who ditched most of my rehearsals and appeared to hate my guts says this as she graduated over a year ago:
To the love of my guard life, I might have been a pain in your butt, but I'm glad I did guard this year and got to personally know you. Your [sic] wounderful [sic] and most of all you can put up w/ me!

What this last note revealed is that sometimes kids test us to see if we will put up with them over time. So many find adults get exasperated and walk out of their lives. Guard instructors get mad and quit. Adults walking out of their lives creates a void. A void that fills with pain. So, in the interest of self-protection they test the new adult, or in some cases they are new to the adult who's been there a while.

Kids who complained I pushed them too hard in guard come back and thank me for teaching them how to be pushed and push themselves.

Again, I'm talking years later.

That's what's so hard about teaching. It can take years IF you get to see some of the fruits of your labors.

I'm not posting this to toot my own horn, I'll leave that to the brass section. Rather I want to remind teachers and coaches why we do what we do. No matter how our season or semester progresses, we are impacting lives.

All the kids want from us is to show up and love them when they are feeling most unlovable. We may not feel like we're giving or achieving our educational/competitive goals, but in their eyes, we're sick.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It appears I'm dead, but I'm not.

September? Seriously?

I think I broke my own record for blog silence.

Can't count high enough to tell you how many times I've been asked, "Are you dead?"

No, I'm not dead. Felt like it at times, maybe wished I was, but I'm alive, kicking and coughing - thanks to the flu-y type things floating around.

Over the past few months I've been taking a break. Kinda reevaluating my life. What's important. What's not. Chasing ways to Make More Money and getting overwhelmed and discouraged.

Learning the definition of the words "simplify" and "focus".

I've come to the conclusion that I've been trying to do too much for all the wrong reasons. I've been struggling and fighting in my own strength the solve the How-will-we-feed-our-family-this-week problem. Taking on so much, I get NOTHING done.

Did you know it's possible to do so much you accomplish NOTHING?

Here's what I've learned.

  • I'm not the Avon queen - being as disorganized as I am, I can barely handle my own customers on top of being in leadership. I think I need to pass my downline to someone more organized and less scattered and keep my current customers happy
  • My novel may take a loooooooooooooong time to sell. Kinda knew that, but reality is hitting. It's time to let the process work and start something fresh and new
  • 9 years of teaching guard doesn't mean I got it all down. I'm in a new school, with new kids and feel like I've never done this before. My students are stretching me, challenging me to grow and evolve
  • I'm a mom. 3.5 year old boys need their mommies and love it when said mommies disengage from the computer
  • Laundry doesn't do itself
  • Spreading myself thin makes me holey. When I try to manage a dozen unrelated projects by spreading myself like a small pie crust in a huge pan, parts of me break and gaping holes open up and nothing turns out well
  • Litterboxes don't clean themselves
  • I've been waiting on Big Things to Happen rather than waiting on the Lord.
  • Small boys can flood bathrooms when left to themselves for more than 45 seconds
  • Friends are worth more than money
  • People do care about me
  • God won't let me or my family starve - he'll send people along with groceries or I'll get a call from a friend who found a great deal on potatoes and she bought more than she could use and wants to know if I need some
  • Less is more
  • I'm not stupid
  • I have a destiny (don't know what it is yet)
  • This too shall pass
I'm going through some really hard stuff and eventually my energy will return. Getting stronger hurts, but it happens. So, keep on checking back. I'll keep you updated and hopefully will blog more when I feel better.