Sunday, September 28, 2014

When September Ends

I said I wasn't going to be sad - and I'm not, really. Maybe it's because, at this point, I'm more fatigued than dismal that this life changing experience is coming to an end. At least, it was life changing for me. That could be because of when this season has happened, relatively early in my life and (relatively) early in my teaching career. I feel as though I have aged 10 years - not only in experiences, but in the physical toll that traveling alone, nonstop for a year has on your body. Never underestimate how difficult it is to drive, often in inclement weather, listening carefully to your GPS and trusting it to not take you over-the-river-and-through the-woods, stay alert for hours on end, with one eye on the road and another on the clock, hoping you'll get where ever you're going in time - or before dark. My back and stomach both feel like they have been crunched tightly in a fist since January.
This is what my odometer read at the beginning of August.

I'm not going to be sad. It was everything it was meant to be for me, and it's time to move on. My mental and physical capacity for having two full time jobs has reached its limit. After a year, it's time for a release of having somewhere to be, something to say, or someone to write for - at least on a tightly scheduled basis.

My lone speaking engagement this month was addressing the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees at their annual meeting in Braxton County. It was also my last speaking engagement as the current teacher of the year until October 8th, when I address the state school board and give my farewell speech (is it really a farewell speech? Maybe reflection speech would be a better name for it). Regardless, I enjoyed speaking to those who have given a lifetime of service to education in West Virginia and have the opportunity to now advocate for our teachers and students from another perspective.

Nicolas County WVARSE members

One of the last one room school teachers from Tucker County.

That's not to say I wasn't busy. I have made four trips to Charleston since this school year began. Some were for selecting the next teacher of the year, others were for committees that I have been appointed to as a result of my title. Which is why, I guess October 8th really isn't as much a farewell as it is a "reboot." That's also what I have spent much of this past month pondering, in between lesson plans, calling substitutes, and grading papers - what happens next?
Marshall University Graduate School in Charleston
I've also started working on one thing I plan to pursue after October 8th. I am writing and illustrating a children's book about my year, with the main character none other than your favorite West Virginia state symbol. This is uncharted territory for me, but I figure Berkeley's blog is a good start for a story line - and I certainly have the pictures to inspire my illustrations. I have been doing a lot of research on how to get started with a children't book (among other things) - just wondering at this point if I can tell Berkeley's adventures in just 32 pages.
Those post-it notes are the beginning of Berkeley's book.

I also received this in the mail last week. It brought back all the excitement of that day, which was a much needed pick-me-up in the midst of mounting stress.
With President Obama in the Blue Room of the White House, May 1, 2014

Cecelia Mason's article on my year also was published  in Shepherd University's Alumni magazine. You can read the story at this link. What is it like to go to your mailbox and, in the midst of advertisements and bills, see yourself staring back at you? At this point, it's just another day in the life...
Thank you, Cecelia, for another beautiful article about my year.

This upcoming week, I am traveling to Princeton, New Jersey, for the final convening of our 2014 class of state teachers of the year. I'm looking forward to it (after I write yet another set of substitute lesson plans), not only to see the teachers that understand what this year has been all about, but because I need some direction as to what to do next.

The time out of the classroom is stretching me thin - remember I write this blog not only to document my year, but to give insight as to what this experience is all about, not just the recognition and glory, but the wear and tear. I feel (and have felt) incredibly guilty when I have to leave my classroom in someone else's care. Once I get to my destination, I turn off the guilt and focus on what I need to say and do, because I represent every teacher in West Virginia. Then, I make the trek home, exhausted, only to get up the next morning and give what I have left to my students.
Although I've been in and out, my 5th graders already know me well.

The pressure is immense. So is the reward.

Which is why, here at the very end as the season changes to fall, coming full circle from last year, it's difficult to not be just a little sad.

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