A new school year is about to start. For parents this means regained hours of freedom as kids go back into classrooms for a big chunk of the day. For those of us who are about to welcome those kids into our classrooms and into our hearts, this means a sudden and severe curtailment of freedom.
For the last two weeks, I've been going in to school to get my room ready, and to try to get myself ready - to ease myself back into the confinement of a tightly scheduled life. Two days last week were spent sitting in math training - to prepare us for the latest I (and we're told the absolute last) pendulum swing of math instruction. The first two days of this coming week will be spent sitting in staff meetings and welcoming my new charges at open house.
My room is ready. I've reconnected with my team and other colleagues. I've written twenty-five new names at least a dozen times - welcoming postcards, bookmarks, desk names, rosters, lunch chart, on and on and on. If the kids came tomorrow, all systems are go and the room is ready to receive them.
I'm about to welcome my twenty-first class.
I don't want to.
I don't want to spend the next two days listening to the long lists of new things we're expected to do with not enough time or resources to do them with. I didn't appreciate the two days of training that were just like the last two decades of trainings I've sat through - the latest new thing to solve everything before we've had a chance to really learn the last latest new thing. I don't want to spend the evening before the first day of school meeting my new families and receiving the piles of school supplies they're all out buying as I write this. I don't want to spend my prime energy in this way any longer.
It sounds so harsh to say. If I were one of my parents reading this I would be concerned. My heart is not in public education. My heart has headed in a whole new direction in the last couple of years, and it's not happy to be held back. We, my heart and soul and I, were going to be done with teaching elementary school last year. Life and economics decided otherwise.
And so for one more year, I am an elementary school teacher. I don't know why. I do know it's where I'm meant to be. I believe - I need to believe - that when I learn the lesson this job has to teach, I will be finally be freed to travel where my heart is leading me. I pray that this will be the year.
Here are my teacher goals for this year: To love my kids. To do all I can to help them feel that love. To be kind, compassionate, forgiving - even (or especially) when it's hard. To have fun. To find a way to get more energy than I lose. To be. To not work so hard. To not worry so much.
Here are not my teacher goals for this year: To fix anyone. To get good scores on the state assessment. To impress anyone with anything. To fit in and belong.
I had my first student encounter last week. Joe and his sister Maddie, who was in my room two years ago, came by while I was working in my room. I got great hugs from both kids and they came in for a visit. Maddie is one of my all time favorite people. Joe is mine this year.
"I burp a lot." This out of the blue, and offered as a friendly challenge.
"Well, I hope you won't be burping during class."
"But I can't help it. The burps just come out."
I've had this conversation a time or two before, with boys much like Joe. "Sure you can help it. My youngest brother is the world's champion burper. He swallows more air than anyone I've ever seen."
"Do you want to hear me burp?" I've got him now. The challenge has been reversed.
The burp is nicely loud, but short in duration. I tell Joe this. "My brother can burp ten times louder and longer than that."
"It was just a practice burp. I can do better. Listen."
He does in fact double both volume and duration, and I praise his efforts. By this time he's done with the whole burping thing. I'm having fun, delighted that I've been able to surprise him, and for the first time feeling a spark of something resembling anticipation for the year.
During the sleepless and restless nights that consume my last hours of freedom relentlessly, I try to replay that conversation. It contains all I want for the year. Now if I can only do that with all twenty-five of my new babies. And come home at the end of my days with enough energy to give my heart its deepest desire.
photo by another sergio from Flickr