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To the coaches–thank you.

Making it look easy…

Well.

Dang.

Have you ever cried at a wedding? I sure have. My friend still teases me about how much I cried at hers. Thinking about it, it was watching someone cross a threshold (too on the nose?) to another journey and life that wasn’t available to me. Yet, anyway. (That word, “yet,” — a prayer, a validation, a banner, and bludgeon…) A few months later I would meet my husband to be, and get a look behind that curtain. But her life and mine look very different. I’m struggling to come up with a metaphor here that’s not too cliche, but all I can think of are branches on a tree or rivers finding their paths. Ugh.

*goes to pour more coffee*

*it didn’t help*

Connections and separations lend themselves to cliches and similes, but there is truth there: once you meet someone you are connected: for this moment, I want to extend my gratitude to two coaches that made a huge difference for me this year, Michael and Vicky.

Vicky comes from my district, and Michael from out of district. Both are exemplary educators, masters in their craft, and far and away damn fine coaches. Their honest and intelligent conversations, observations and and reciprocity is what I admire more than I can say. They saw in me the talent, and the growth, and my only regret is that I didn’t get to see them enough. Each precious time they interacted with me individually I felt the clouds lift, and my vision cleared. Good coaches take a special personality, great coaches make you feel like you’re not being coached at all, but a collaborator on a masterpiece. Their generosity of acknowledging my strengths without me ever feeling a “yes-but” statement was coming is extraordinary. Vicky especially, since we spent more time together, valued the crafted curriculum and exploration I do and did on my own, and she knows I’m capable and ready to share. Just like my art education days, being in the studio by oneself is only enjoyable if once in awhile the work is shown and shared.

Some work I tried on this year (one of their favorite phrases), both on my own and through them include:

There is more, to be sure: handouts and PowerPoints and resources galore. And I know that when they do other things next year on their own journeys, I hope that we will always be connected and our paths cross frequently and joyfully.

PS I also need to thank my admin for pairing me with these coaches: as we grow together, I don’t mind being “keeper of the lessons” and sharing them.

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Taking stock.

One of my BFFs recently posted her highlights of her summer, most, if not all, included time spent with friends and family. Her wonderful words made me stop and think what would I be grateful for about these past few weeks? I need to step out of the mud miring the beginning of this school year, forget about all the people who say, “oh, you get summers off!” and show some gratitude and count some blessings.

Before I can get to the chewy center, though, I need to get this off my chest: teachers get the summers off because our students do. We are not paid. We are not under ‘contract.’ We are on a forced vacation. Many teachers take summer jobs. Many teachers teach summer school. Most teachers do some sort of professional development, paid for out of their time and pocketbooks. If I added up the hours I spent working during the school year, it would equal any high-level executive, including being accessible to students practically 24/7 on e-mail, voice mail, and in person before or after school (unless of course I am in a meeting, which is often the case…we have meetings to talk about how to help students while the students are standing outside in the cold, literally and figuratively). I put in my time well beyond my contract day, and I love my job, so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice or burden. And, one of the reasons I became a teacher (as opposed to going back into a higher-paying position) was I knew the sacrifice of salary would allow me to spend time with my family, too. So, fine. Yes. I’m lucky to have ‘summers off.’ But it is kind of hard to be a teacher when the students are not there! Most schools in the United States still run on an agrarian calendar, meaning we don’t have school when the children need to be working the farms with their parents. What? You say you don’t have a farm? Oh.

Anyway, here are the highlights of my summer:

  • Meeting new friends during my three-week writers’ workshop
  • Discovering the UW campus at that workshop
  • Seeing my youngest sister and her family
  • Having our portraits taken by a talented photographer who captured a beautiful photo of me and my two sisters (my parents will LOVE it!)
  • Enjoying time in Texas
  • Being there when my grandmother had her 90th birthday
  • Getting the garage cleaned out and finding all of my Halloween decorations for a spooky October this year
  • Learning how to make glass pendants
  • Reading some great books
  • Spending time with my dad
  • Learning about a variety of good news from friends and colleagues
  • Getting some of my sleep issues taken care of
  • Spending time with my boys and my husband, and actually having time to cook meals, talk, and enjoy each others’ company (this isn’t last because it’s the least important, it is the most important one of all, and supports everything else I do)

So, it’s time to enjoy the mental ‘harvest’ I’ve collected over the summer, and use it to nourish me throughout the school year. I am honored to be a teacher, and get to meet this next group of young adults. See you soon!