Monday, January 16, 2012

I Went Running. What Did You See?

(If you can name the book that inspired the title of the post, you are definitely an early elementary teacher.  And I love you a little bit more than I did two seconds ago.)

Friends, I went running this weekend.  Running.  Running as in sneakers on, headphones in, Mini napping and work bag idle in a corner running.  Running. 

I know I keep typing it, but it's like my fingers are in shock.  So are my feet.  And my legs.  And - holy crap - the endorphins!  I am awesome right now.  AWESOME.  Awesome with a capital amaze balls.

Why has it taken me so long to get back on the horse?  And, honestly, was I ever really on the horse to begin with?  Oh.  Wait.  I know.  I'm an educator and we feel intense guilt whenever we do something for ourselves with time we feel like we should be doing something for our classrooms, or our families, or our friends or all the other individuals who get neglected between the months of Setpember August and June.  I doubled down with that guilt a little over a year ago when I became a mommy and, holy shit you guys, the mommy / educator combo is a whole world of guilt I never knew existed!  It's like a layer of guilt wrapped up in a you-suck-at-balancing-everything wrap.  Mayo on the side of course.  (See what I mean?  These endorphins have made me insane!)

If you've been reading me for awhile, you know that I am on a constant search for Zen.  (Read more posts about my impossible dream here.)   And I feel like every teacher friend I have is too.  We all lament our inability to go to the gym, to get a pedicure, to sit down and enjoy a book for ourselves.  We all make grand promises to fit that stuff in.  Because we are teachers, we organize a massive Plan To Do More For Ourselves And Be More Efficient which includes goals that are impossible to meet.  Like "go running six days a week" or "only eat dessert twice a month" or "grade papers the same night that I collect them" or "answer every single email I receive within 24 hours."  Um, can you say "set yourself up for failure much?" 

But you know what I did today?  Inspired by my version of a self help book The Happiness Project, I stopped complaining about how I never get to do anything for myself and used that time to actually go and do something for myself.  (Effing revolutionary, I know.)  I didn't tell myself I was going to run seven miles, I started with one.  And then I came home so freaking proud of myself and hopped up on endorphins that I know I will do it again.  Sooner rather than later.

And I thought to myself, "Self, maybe we should start a TEACHER's Happiness Project...."  In the spirit of continuing to strive for that Zen, that's exactly what I'm going to do.  In the spirit of just starting and starting small, let's just keep it to the blog for now.  I'll post about what I did to find more balance and be happier and you can respond with what you did (or hope to do) in the comments.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Musings While At the DMV

I recently had to spend some quality time at the DMV.  You see, I have a birthday coming up and as a special gift to me from the universe, my driver's license is set to expire this year.  Happy birthday to  me!  Cut to me standing in a line that was five people and countless inefficiencies deep.  After I checked Facey Face, caught up on emails, played a game or two of Scrabble on my phone, read the news headlines and checked the weather (twice), I had some time to stand and think.  (Yes, there was time....lots and lots of time.  Like endless amounts of time.  For reflecting.  And death staring.)

Time to think and watch.  Watch as the employees at the DMV engaged in an elaborate dance that could be called Ignoring My Responsibilities and All Sense of Customer Service: A Movement Study.  After "helping" (servicing?  dealing with?  tolerating?) an individual tax-paying citizen, one DMV employee in particular would begin her dance.  It went something like this:

Take a sip of coffee, exclaim about it's temperature, carry the coffee to the copier under the guise of copying something (although no actual paper was involved), carry the coffee back to her station, check her messages, adjust her station on Pandora, chat with the employee next to her about the last song played, laugh about a comment so hard that laughter deteriorated into a fit of coughing that spewed germs on everything in a ten foot radius, comment on coughing, sigh deeply, roll her eyes at the clock and then, with a strong, undeniable annoyance, end her complex dance by bellowing, "Next!"

"Help" the next individual and repeat.

As performance art goes, I say well done!  However, as far as efficiency, customer service and general awareness of how germs are spread goes, I say holy crap this is UNBELIEVABLE! 

During my ample time to "reflect," I had a thought.  Everyone hates going to the DMV for just this reason.  (Apologies to all you rockstars at the DMV....wherever you are hiding.)  It seems to be common accepted knowledge that the DMV is chock full of inefficiencies, employees who could give a shit, pointlessly long and redundant paperwork and confusing lines that are impossible to navigate.  Even if there was an employee who came in all gung-ho and full of (what's the word?) work ethic, would it matter?  Would it make a difference?  Would anyone notice?  Would that employee be able to sustain his or her commitment to a job well done?  Would it be long before the reputation of the DMV became a self-fulfilling prophesy?  Before this individual was crushed into submission, bitterness, and fits of coughing by his or her colleagues?

Can you see where I'm going with this yet?

My next thought was, "Will it be long before the same things happens to teachers and education?"  I mean, we already take more than our fair share of finger pointing in the media.  Just this last week, people (including myself) collectively gasped in horror when we heard about the teacher who had used insanely inappropriate images of slavery in word problem.  Granted, girlfriend was wrong with a capital Crazy Pants, but still. Where are the stories of teachers doing amazing things?  Teachers inspiring their students?  Teachers who are able to make a difference without ruining their marriages, sleeping over at their schools or giving up everything in their lives a la every movie about "good" teachers ever made?

How long is it before the general public assumes we are all lazy bags of hair who collect a paycheck while doing the least amount of work possible because we only got into this profession for the summers off anyway?  How long before the general public just accepts that public schools can be equated with failing schools?  And how much longer after that before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy?

In my last school, I always wondered about co-"workers" like the Fanny Pack, the Bacon Hunter and the Big White Guitar.  Was there ever a time when they were killing it in their classrooms?  Did they start out this way or did the system slowly eat away at their work ethic and commitment to children?

Anyone else feel like a drink? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Just Another Manic Wednesday

There are days when it feels like the stars have aligned and made you the Goddess of Teaching, teacher of the year, and the woman whose you-know-what doesn't stink because even her shit is made of pure genius all wrapped into one. 

Do you ever have those days?

Days when you get through everything in your plans but didn't feel like you were rushing.  Days when all your teaching comes together in ways you couldn't imagine.  It's just that great.  Days when all your friends are pumped about their learning and produce amazing things.  Days when that particular friend who drives you batshit crazy is slightly harder to love does something kind and lovely for someone else.  Days when the photocopier works, your classroom phone doesn't ring and there are no interruptions at your door.  Coats are on their hooks, the pencils are all sharpened and there isn't a scrap of paper on the floor for as far as the eye can see.

Hold on, I'm a little choked up. It's just so beautiful. Give me a moment.

These are the days when you tap into your inner Charlie Sheen and shout, "Winning!" as you high five your colleagues in the hall at the end of the day. 

Too far?

Regardless, you know what I'm talking about.  We have all had those days.  We have all relied on those days to get us through the other days.

Ah, the other days.  Today I had one of those other days.

Those days when you can't find your car keys, your wallet is in places unknown and you are ten minutes late to everything.  Where the stars don't align, you don't feel productive and while you get things done, you know you could have done way more.  You have food in your teeth, there is paper everywhere and where the hell did you leave that pen?!  Your friends are snippy, the interruptions are endless and you are starting to feel as if Judith Viorst was writing about you, not some kid named Alexander.

Why is it that those other days always seem to follow up the days when you have rocked it endlessly?  Is it the universe sending us a reality check?  An ego check? 

I think it's just the nature of teaching.  When I was getting certified, one of my favorite professors told me that teaching was all about not getting too caught up in the highs and the lows because they are extreme and ever changing. 

Someone point me to the wine.  After all, tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

This Year I Promise Not To Over Promise

Or at least I promise to try not to - that's good, right? I mean, i think it may be genetically impossible for a teacher to not over-commit herself. Just a personal theory.

For the last few days I've been thinking about 2012 and how I'm going to make it even better than 2011. Honestly, in a lot of ways 2011 kicked some serious ass. It was my first full year as a mommy, I finally graduated and became Dr. Mimi, I've been fortunate to have a few rad professional opportunities come my way and overall, I have a pretty happy life. However, in many ways 2011 was tough. I was stressed, I felt pulled in a million directions, not to mention having my own fair share of family drama.

So what to do? How to make things better?

My first reaction was to get my list on. (You knew that was coming, right?) In true teacher-who-can't-say-no-to-anything-and-thinks-she-is-invincible-and-more-productive-than-three-typical-adults-combined fashion, the list was lengthy. Here are some highlights:

* to catch up on my Fave blogs and educational news daily
* to be more informed
* to do hot yoga at least once a week
* to clean a room or area of my house everyday
* to be more organized (I know! But it's possible, even for me.)
* to take more pictures of my work in classrooms
* to blog more
* to read one professional book each month

Sound familiar?

Here are some rezzies from year's past that might strike a chord:
* to correct homework as soon as I receive it
* to communicate more with parents
* to change my outside bulletin board every two weeks
* to integrate more technology into my teaching
* to be at least one week ahead in my plans at all times
* to re-organize my files and keep them up to date
* to stop putting things in piles

Anyone? Anyone??? Bueller?

But on this first day of 2012 I realized that I can't completely control what happens to me, not can I totally control the times will have available for me to be so fabulous. What I'm getting at is rather than set myself up to go do in spectacular flames of failure in mid-February (with the related crying, shame spiraling and ice cream eating), I think this year I'm simply going to try not to over commit. (Which for me means keeping the plate full because I'm a sick sick individual who is more productive when I'm busy, while trying my best to make sure that the plate is filled with more things I love than things I'm not so jazzed about. Assessment, I'm looking at YOU.) I'm going to try not to say I'll do something simply because I'll feel guilty if I don't. I'm going to try to take each week as it comes and do what I can. I'm going to try to be more present in my daily life and think about what I get to do, rather than think in terms of what I have to do.

What about you? How long is your list??? (Come on, I know you have one...)

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