I was going to let my last post be it for the year, but a lot has transpired since October - and I think it's important to share the aftermath.
First of all, things don't fade to black and snap back to the way they were. Having experienced the highs and lows this full-time life entails, I made a trip to Wheeling to not only work with beginning teachers at Wheeling Jesuit University and Ohio County Schools, but to brief the upcoming WVTOY on the year to come.
|Elementary Education majors at Wheeling Jesuit
|With the 2015 WVTOY Gail Adams and 2009 WVTOY MaryLu Hutchins
For the past year, I have run on adrenaline. It's kept me alert, motivated, and putting one foot in front of the other when otherwise not humanly possible. When I finally didn't need to run on adrenaline anymore...it was the equivalent of letting go of a just blown up balloon. I was exhausted, sick, and, keeping it real...discouraged. To use another analogy, trying to get a routine and relationships established in my classroom at the beginning of the year while being constantly disrupted was like trying to build a really tall tower with building blocks and someone knocking it down over and over just when you get it at the right height. All the fatigue and frustration that I should of felt full force all year sent me into crash mode for several months. The only time I didn't feel like I was falling apart was when I was falling asleep.
There were bright spots though, that reassured me that maybe normal was just around the corner.
|Grant Recognition from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation
|Classroom Management Workshop at Shepherd University
|WVRA Conference...well, it's almost normal to make three stops at The Greenbrier in 12 months...right, Berkeley?
And there were field trips...in a year that has felt like the greatest field trip imaginable.
|5th Grade Field Trip to Harpers Ferry
|Arsenal where John Brown was captured
|It just wouldn't be a field trip anymore without a bear.
After Thanksgiving Break, I felt recharged. It was a relief to know that I wasn't going to spend the rest of the school year running on fumes. I've stopped checking my email non-stop in fear that I'm going to miss important dates and times. My luggage is taking a well-earned winter's nap in the basement. I go to school, come home, grade papers, sleep, and repeat. Things are almost back to the way there were, and most days I'm so busy that I could put this last year completely out of my mind, except...
I have close to 1,000 pictures from this year on my phone. It's amazing the thing even turns on anymore.
There are 16,000 miles on the car. Just seeing the new reading on the odometer each evening when I enter the garage reminds me of what a journey this has been.
I have pictures in my classroom of life through the years. Among that collection now are ones with Homer Hickham and President Obama.
Having been in every school in Berkeley County and to many counties across the state, places and names immediately bring faces and stories to mind. I think about people all the time.
These past few days, I've been at my residency at the National Harbor for my doctorate. In a year where I've gained much, there is still a lot left to learn.
|National Harbor in Washington, D.C.
|Inside the Gaylord Convention Center
Then there's that bear. He's been everywhere this year, and what a story he has to tell children about the things he has seen and the importance of being the difference. One of my greatest joys is writing and drawing, and I am looking forward to creating something that allows me to share the joy of this journey, as well as encourages children to write, draw, and imagine.
I still get emails - just not in mass amounts that take hours to go through and answer. Mostly, they are from college students. Some I met over the past year; others have found me on Twitter or through my blog. They share their stories, and they ask for resources. In me, they have found someone they can identify with, and of that I am most proud. When I met students at the Future Educators Association at their conference this February, something clicked. I saw a purpose for my story and classroom that otherwise wouldn't have been revealed had it not been for this journey. My goal going forth is to create something for beginning teachers to use as a resource to find answers, opportunities...and confidence.
I still represent the most vital profession to our nation's future, just now in a less demanding role. That "less demanding part" is a relief. I have learned, grown, and found peace with every experience. Most importantly, I have found ways to keep serving people and challenging myself. I hope you've enjoyed reading about this season of my life this year. It was difficult to find time to write (and write well), but sharing what was going on made me feel closer to people, when many times I have been in a car or away from home for hours or days...and occasionally weeks.
So this isn't good bye; it's see you soon. (I'm staring at the screen trying to figure out how to end this post).
Okay, here we go...
To my teacher friends, have faith in yourself. Regardless of what changes and challenges persist in the coming year, there are classrooms of students that need you - just as you are. Choose to be exceptional, and choose to speak up. There is value in your professional opinion regarding what children need to be successful, but you need to share your voice. Resolve to present yourself professionally and with passion to your students and peers, because the only way the entire image of this profession changes is if we all choose to be the best we can be. Those kids in your room, whether it's the straight A student or the one that never stops talking, need you to be their role model for how to act, resolve and learn. Find reasons, even when it's hard, to keep holding on and moving forward...
...because that is the difference.