Wherein I Dub Myself “Hashtag Girl”

My Streaks app is telling me that today is a writing day.  I’ve been using Streaks to help me set some habits.  Right now it includes writing 3 days per week, doing Barre3 four days per week, picking up for 10 minutes a day, and drinking more water than coffee.  Anyhow, my app is telling me I need to write, so I’m writing even though I’m not entirely sure what to write about.

I’m struggling a bit with some things that are happening at work.  It’s a long story, but there is some political yuckiness happening with the school board.  I’m struggling with my passion for my work, my desire to hug everyone and tell them it will be ok, and my desire to shout from the rooftops that people need to sit up and pay attention.  Basically, I want to fix everything…and I have to recognize that I can only do what I can do.  It’s making me especially emotional because not only have I worked for 11 years in my district, next year my daughters will start school in my district.  It’s personal. It’s emotional. It’s not my favorite. I’m working on doing what I can, being the best me I can be, and helping our district, teachers, and students to shine.

I’m sort of the Hashtag Girl these days.  I push colleagues to tweet and use our district hashtag.  It’s always important for us to show our work and tell our story, but especially so in difficult times.  We have to own our stories and not let others tell them for us.  We must avoid the danger of a single story.  I truly believe that owning our story is transformational, so I’ll keep on pushing us in that direction.  One tweet at a time.

Tell Me What To Do/Don’t Tell Me What To Do

In my role as a coach over the past few years, I’ve had many conversations with teachers where someone said to me, “Please just tell me what to do,” and then, sometimes in the same breath, followed that with, “I don’t want to be told what to do.” I have had similar thoughts myself as a teacher, a coach, and a parent. Just tell me what to do…except I’m the expert on my students/teachers/children so don’t tell me what to do. Every time I’ve heard or felt this, I’ve been confused. We can’t have it both ways…right? How can these seemingly polar opposite ideas coexist?

I’ve recently had an epiphany.

As with many of my epiphanies, this one came to me while I was reading…and reading something not related to education at that.

In the book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande explores aging, dying, and death in the modern medical age.  He uses research and storytelling to bring forth the idea that quality of life is what we are looking for at the end of our time. My epiphany occurred while reading a chapter on nursing homes and assisted living.  What Gawande brings to light is that in elder care structure, routine, and autonomy are key.  Nursing homes have the structure and routine part working like a well-oiled machine, but they often neglect the autonomy. The elderly who live on their own have their autonomy, but they may lack the structures and supports to keep them as safe and healthy as possible. For a successful, healthy, fulfilling life both components are necessary. I immediately connected this idea with my experiences as an early childhood special education teacher. My students needed a predictable routine and classroom structures in order to feel safe and to know what to expect.  They also needed time and space to practice being independent and to explore their interests.  If I structured every minute of their day, not only would they be bored and rebel, but they wouldn’t learn anything.  On the other hand, if I just made my classroom a free for all, it would be stressful environment that lacked the safety necessary for learning. It’s about the balance of both.

In my work as a coach, I’ve discovered that these conversations about support and autonomy happen across grade levels.  All of our learners thrive on the healthy balance of structure and independence.  This is where is hit me: teachers ARE learners.  If this is true for our students, it’s true for us as teachers too. When we say, “Tell me what to do but don’t tell me what to do,” we are asking for support in finding that balance.  Show me how to structure my work, but don’t hand me a script to read off of.  Help me have a routine for what I need to do, but recognize that I bring my own expertise into the classroom.  As a coach, I need to recognize that teachers may be seeking structure and routine as well as autonomy and independence. I need to be aware that they may need more structure in some areas than others, and I need to help them find the right balance.  Now that I have a better handle on what, “Tell me but don’t tell me,” means, I can use this knowledge to better serve and support teachers…and myself!

Is This Thing On?

My mind has been very full lately, and I’m sure this is what has lead to my recent itch to blog.  It’s been a while, huh?  Tonight, the desire was so strong that I just had to sit down and get some words out.  But then I got stuck…what should I write about?

Should I write about how much I’m learning at my new job?  How it’s crazy and fun and exhausting?  How it makes me wonder if I want to go back to the classroom?

Or should I write about my recently developed crush on Sir Ken Robinson and how I repeatedly watch videos of him on YouTube just to listen to him talk sexy about things like technology and transforming education?

Should I write about my voracious appetite for books and that I can’t stop reading?  Which of the 72 books I’ve read so far this year should I talk about?

Maybe I should write about how this boy said something to me in high school that I still think about regularly?

Or should I write about how my daughters are suddenly three YEARS old and sometimes my mommy heart can’t take how amazing they are?  Or about how sometimes they drive me batshit insane?

Should I write about my recent addiction to colored tights and coffee?

So, I pondered all of these writing possibilities and decided to take a bath instead of writing.  But then I got out of the tub and still wanted to write, so I just wrote all of this nonsense because sometimes you’ve just got to let the words out.

Maybe my next post will be more cohesive…

And Then I Got a New Job…

If you follow me on twitter, you have probably heard that it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks that resulted in me getting a new job.

I started teaching 8 years ago, and I am going to be leaving the classroom…sort of.  My new job is as a technology coach in my school district.  I will be working with 10 elementary schools that are undergoing restructuring.  I will work with staff to use and implement technology into their teaching.  I am very excited!

I am also terrified.

Taking this job was a very emotional decision for me.  I love my current job.  I love my kids.  I get to go to work every day with my best friend.  My teaching assistant and I have been working together for almost my entire career.  It was not an easy choice to make, and even though I think it was the right choice, my heart hurts to think about leaving my classroom.

Who knew that getting a new job would be such an emotional roller coaster?  I go from being so excited and having all of the ideas to crying and thinking I’m crazy for leaving.

I told my husband earlier this year that if I was going to leave the classroom, I would want to be a technology coach.  Then this position just fell into my lap.  It felt like a sign.  So, I interviewed and got the job.  EEK!

I never intended to be a career classroom teacher.  I love teaching, but I believe I can also have an impact in the lives of children in other roles in the field.  I feel like this is my chance to have a really big impact about something that I am so passionate about.

So, I’m excited.  And terrified.  And I hope my dad is proud of me.

Never Let It Drop — Thoughts on Being a Working Mom

Before I start, I want to say that I am fully aware that all moms work.  I work just as hard during the summer months when I’m home as I do when I’m at school.  It’s just a different kind of work.  This is just me talking about my experiences as a mom who also has a paying job.

When I tell people that I have twins, people almost always comment on how busy I am.  When I tell them that I also have 15 other children that I dedicate my life too, they wonder how I can possibly get anything done.

I am a mom to twins.  I’m also a teacher.  To say I have a lot on my plate is an understatement…but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What’s life as a working mom like?  Well, I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll just tell you how it is for me…

Being a working mom means that it took me two years to complete the girls’ baby books.

It means that I only give 100% when I’m at work, instead of the 150% I used to give.

It means lists, and lists, and lists, and more lists.  I have lists on my phone, lists in my kitchen, lists on my computer, lists on my desk…and that’s just at home.  There are dozens of lists at work too.  I have long-term lists, lists for this week, and even a list for this nap time.  This blog post has been on a list for over a year.

It means getting up and getting dressed in something other than a t-shirt and jeans.  Wearing actual clothes and doing my hair makes me feel amazing, even if I’m half asleep.

It means saying no, which isn’t always easy for me to do.  I want to do all of the things, but I often have to say no because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

It means letting things go.  Sometimes I just can’t do it all.  It’s ok that I didn’t get a blog post up on my classroom blog this week.  It’s ok that it took me 4 days to reply to your email.  It’s ok that I haven’t cleaned off the kitchen counter in weeks.  It’s ok.

It means spending the occasional nap time watching Pretty Little Liars instead of cleaning because I desperately need a break.

It means feeling fulfilled intellectually, emotionally, and professionally.  It means getting to feel like an adult for a few hours each day.

It means forgetting things constantly.  Hence, the lists.  If I don’t write it down, I’m sure to forget it.  I can’t keep track of upcoming IEP meetings & dentist appointments while also putting puppy tails in my daughters’ hair.  My mind is constantly on overdrive, and things just get forgotten.

It means we have money to pay our bills, to put into savings, and to pay for fun things like ballet classes and colored skinny jeans.

It means I haven’t opened my Google Reader in months.  Is there even still such a thing?  I want to read blogs and keep up with people, but I can barely find the time to read my own blog!  Twitter is the name of this working mom’s game.

It means doing what’s important.  What needs to be done right now?  What can I move to tomorrow’s list?  Do I really need to fold the laundry, or is taking the time to read a book more important?

It means sometimes I’m not my best self at work because I’ve had a hard day at home.  It means sometimes I’m not my best self at home because I’ve had a hard day at work.

It means that I get to be constantly amazed by children, both at home and at work.  It’s helped me to be a better parent by showing me just how lucky I am.  It’s helped me to be a better teacher by seeing the world through a mother’s eyes.

It means that sometimes I feel on the verge of drowning at any second.  There is so much to do that I constantly feel like I’m treading water.  One thing goes wrong and my whole day can fall apart.  It’s a constant juggling act.  I’m just trying to keep my hackey sack in the air.

It means that sometimes I put on Signing Time or Tangled just so I can have some quiet snuggles with my girls.

It means being proud of myself for doing as much as I can for my girls and for my students.

It means that I feel guilty a lot.  Guilty that I left my girls at home.  Guilty that I didn’t get enough done for my students at school.  Guilty that I’m not a more attentive wife or a better housekeeper.

It’s a lot, this working mom gig.  It’s not easy, and some days it’s downright impossible…but other days it’s amazing.  I get to be the mom to these funny, sweet, fantastic girls of mine.  I also get to be a part of all these other families who need my support.  I’m lucky to have a job that means to much to me.  Even though there are days that I feel crazy and out of control, I know that what I do at work and at home are important.  It’s worth the crazy to me.

Being a working mom is all about finding balance.  It’s a constant battle of priorities.  Some days, I fall flat on my face…and I’m slowly learning to be ok with that.  I get to try again tomorrow.

Tomorrow

I’m going back to work tomorrow.

It is absolutely the right choice for my family, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I have so many thoughts and feelings about this, but today is not the day to write about them.

Today is a day for baby kisses and snuggles.

The First Day

Tomorrow should be my first day back at work after summer vacation, but it’s not.

Tomorrow I will be sitting at home, resting up with my girls.

Tomorrow I won’t get to put on a cute new outfit and see all the people I’ve missed all summer.

Tomorrow I won’t get to sit through boring meetings while being filled with excitement about my students’ starting next week.

Tomorrow I won’t get to call families and introduce myself or scramble to set up my room.

Tomorrow I will miss the first day of school.

Tomorrow I won’t get to be a teacher.

In case it’s not clear, I’m incredibly sad about this.  I love my job.  Really.  I psychotically love my job, and I’m a bit broken up about missing the start of the school year.  I have been looking forward to professional interactions, meeting families, and awkward little preschooler hugs all summer.  It just feels so strange to think that this year is starting without me.  I feel a bit like I’m stuck in time while the rest of the world keeps turning.  It’s odd.

Now, obviously, I am very happy to stay home and do what is best for my girls.  I hope it’s understood that I’m not implying in any way that I’d rather risk their health than stay home.  My girls are my number one priority…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sad about missing out on something I’m so passionate about.

A Wee Update

For those of you who aren’t on twitter…

I GOT MY JOB BACK!!!!!!

I promise to post something legitimate again soon, but for now?  Well, I need a nap!

Frustration

I haven’t written about my job since the Spring, but there are now two weeks until school starts, and I’m still in the middle of a major suckfest.  To catch you up a little bit, approximately 17,000 teachers in Illinois lost their jobs this past Spring.  This is largely due to the fact that the state can’t pay it’s bills.  My district is owed millions of dollars that we will likely never see.  My district had to let go hundreds of teachers and staff.

Now, I don’t want to rehash the complicated details of my teaching situation or how seniority works in our district.  This post would be a mile long, and you would probably still be scratching your head.  Let me just say that it’s all very stupid and doesn’t make a bit of sense.  But, here’s a little run down of what’s going on with my job and currently stressing me out…

  • Thankfully, I do have a job for this coming school year.  Unfortunately, it’s not my job.  Right now, I have a position teaching general education Kindergarten.  Now, I haven’t taught general education since I was an undergraduate.  I did student teach Kindergarten…but it was in a tiny town in central Illinois.  It’s not that I think that teaching Kindergarten would be a bad job, it’s just not the job I want or love.
  • My fabulous job that I love with the fire of a thousand suns currently belongs to another early childhood teacher who has more seniority than me.  It’s a job that she doesn’t want at all.  She has never in her career taught in a special education classroom, let alone one with kids as involved as my kids are.  On top of that, she has no desire to teach my kids, and she makes no bones about it.  This doesn’t make her a bad teacher or a bad person…we just all have our passions and our talents.
  • All of this sucks on it’s own, but what makes it suck even more is that those of us in early childhood could still go back to our original positions.  So, even though there are two weeks until school starts, I could still get my job back!  Like I said, I won’t get into the hairy details as to how that all works, but our program is partially grant-funded.  When our grant funding comes through, we can call our teachers back.
  • So, I’m currently sitting here biting my nails and hoping that I can go back to my job.  In the meantime, I’m kind of paralyzed.  I don’t want to go work in my Kindergarten classroom if I’m not going to be there, and I certainly can’t start working in my early childhood classroom since I don’t know for sure if I’ll be there.
  • The hardest part is that we know we have our funding.  We’re just waiting on politicians and administrators to get their acts together.  Barring anything really crazy happening, I can have my job back.  Still, I won’t feel better until I know for sure.

So, yeah.  In addition to trying to plan for maternity leave, being exhausted from being 30 weeks pregnant, and trying to prepare for my babies, I’m also compulsively checking my work e-mail for any signs of an update.  Le sigh.

Awkward

We’ve all been in awkward situations before, but I have to say that, this week, my life seems to be one giant awkward moment.  Let’s talk about things that are awkward, shall we?

Awkward is…

  • interviewing for positions you don’t really want to get.
  • knowing that someone got fired so you could go on these interviews.
  • having the employee that got fired sitting in on your interview.
  • having your friends and coworkers all applying for the same positions.
  • sitting in the waiting room next to other teachers who are applying for the same positions.
  • interviews with principals and staff who loved the staff member that you could be replacing.
  • interviews with principals and staff who think that your current program is basically daycare and that you are basically a babysitter.
  • interviewing for a position knowing that you will run back to your job if given the chance.
  • interviewing for a position while trying to hide your baby bump.

I’m tired of the awkward.