Posted in Random Thoughts, relationships, Teaching, Uncategorized

Another Year Come and Gone

It’s been a while since I sat down to write about things. This year has been a roller coaster for me emotionally, and it has been rather hard for me to think of it all and put it all down on digital paper, as it were.

I don’t know that there weill be any rhyme or reason to the blog I am going to post. I’m not sure if it will make any sense, other than to me, and I think I’m okay with that. I don’t believe that I will ever be a famous blogger. I won’t make a ton of money pouring my heart out to strangers about the things that matter to me most. And I am okay with that.

Anywho.

We had graduation yesterday evening. It was the second class of students that I have seen all the way from their freshman year to their senior year. Chances are it will be the last class of students that I will have that will do that. That in and of itself is enough to cause me emotional distress. If there is one thing that I have loved in my life more than being a mother, it is knowing that I have been trusted with the care of other people’s children. Even for a few months out of the year, I am blessed to be a part of these kids’ lives, and I get to watch them grow and transform.  And nothing has been as satisfying as watching my kids grow from lanky, awkard freshemen, to more awkward seniors.

One of my students burst into tears as we waited for graduation to start. I pulled him close and gave him a hug, reminding him that this was not the end for any of us. In some way, I think that those were the words that I most needed to hear, and so I shared them with him.

He had much to overcome this year. He battled with some internal demons only to come out of them on the other side, hopefully happier and healthier for it.  I like to think that I have done the same.

It doesn’t really matter what I teach next year. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get to call these kiddos my own. It doesn’t matter if I gain the ire of an administrator or a parent for a few moments. Because I know, that deep down, I have made a difference.

Each year, I have my senior kids write a letter, talking about where they think that they have grown and changed. Inevitably, it becomes a letter to me about what they have learned in my class and how much they are going to miss me.

The words they left me with this year brought me to tears. And yet, they are happy ones. They will serve as a reminder in the days, weeks, months, and years to come that I was here and I made a difference.

And so, Class of 2017, I want to thank you. Thank you for going on this journey with me. Thank you for letting me inch a small part of myself into your lives. Thank you for touching my life in ways that I never thought possible. I am so very proud of each and every one of you. I know that you will go far and do great things.

Maybe one day you’ll actually help me open my bookstore. How cool would that be?

Posted in Random Thoughts

Within these Walls

Often I think about the impact that a teacher makes on her classroom.  I think I’ve written about it more than once.

It’s hard to express what happens to your heart as a teacher.  What happens with every group of students that enters your classroom. About the joy and love that you feel for them. About the guilt that you may feel when you finally decide that you may need to take a step back and try something else.

As a freshman, I remember her sitting there in the back corner of the class, obviously troubled.  Who was I to kid? They were all troubled in their own little ways.  But that day, she seemed more out of tune than any other. Another of my students went to her and they talked in hushed whispers about whatever it was that was going on in her life. As class ended, I saw her place a razor blade in the other girl’s hand, taken from concealment in her pencil pouch. I didn’t embarass her with her obvious shame. I went and told the counselor.  They committed her for a day or two, and when she came back, she thanked me.  Thanked me for caring enough to say something, for making her parents notice, even just for a moment.

***

I was standing in the hallway, watching the traffic jam of students that spread like the tentacles of an amoeba. All of a sudden, she raced around the corner, tears in her eyes, and she looked at me and asked simply, “Can I please just have a hug?”  I wrapped my arms around her, and she cried, never telling me what it was that had caused her tears.  I didn’t need to know.  And she didn’t need to talk about it.  She just needed someone to hold her so that she didn’t feel so alone with her tears.

***

It was two years after she had graduated.  She came back to visit, bright eyed and bushy tailed.  She loved everything about the college she was attending.  It had never been better. But then she stopped and looked at me seriously.  “I don’t think I ever told you how glad I was to have you as a teacher.  How much you helped me through that first year.” Tears welled up in her eyes, and I found my own composure cracking. “You may not have known it, but you were the best teacher I ever had.” I cried there in front of her, and she cried too, and we laughed through the tears at the rediculousness of it all.

***

He had graduated the year before.  I hadn’t taught him in four years, but I remember his freshman year well.  The one day when the girl said something to set him off.  Anger flared in his eyes, this man trapped in a boy’s body.  He yelled and railed against whatever invisible daemon he was fighting, fist meeting the metal of my filing cabinet one, two, three times, leaving knuckle dents that still grace its surface twelve years later.  I was scared for him, scared for us.  The year ended, and I never knew what had happened to him to make him so full of emotion.  But talking with another teacher I learned that he was living in shelters, bouncing from one place to the next.  His constant companions were rats and mice and hunger.  He never knew where he was going to end up next or where his next meal would come from.  I see his smiling face in my Facebook feed, a member of the military, all traces of that life seemingly gone from him, save for the small glint in his eye that speaks of things from that other time.

They run together sometimes, the stories that have come and go from the lips and fingers of my students.  One student in jail because he murdered someone.  Other students lost along the way.  One shot at gunpoint.  A few married with kids.  Some still struggling to make ends meet. Others flourishing.  And I know that maybe in some way, they all remember me just a little.  I remember them.  I may not remember a name, but a face and a story, that will always be there.

And so if I walk away from this classroom, find that choices have taken me someplace else, I will take those memories with me.  A stack of drawings given freely.  The Christmas picture of my class and me, hugging and smiling.  The video of my seniors presenting songs and skits, some not appreciated nearly enough.  And I will look at them. And I will smile.  And I will try to remember, that I made a difference. Even if just for a moment.

Posted in Marriage, Motherhood, Random Thoughts, relationships, Teaching, Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ah yes. It is that time of year. The one where everyone gathers together and discusses what it is that they have to be grateful for. And while this year may not have been the best for most of us for one reason or another, I can honestly say that I think that there are at least a few things that we can be thankful for. And here is where I will post my list.

  1. I am thankful to have a wonderful family that loves and supports me even when I’m a pain in the butt. That includes my family and my husband’s family, who have really become one in the same since we got married.
  2. I am SO very thankful to have given birth to an amazing baby boy on the 21st of 2015. He has made this the most amazing year ever, even in the face of some of those other things that made the year not so great.  He is just the best little boy ever, and I love him more than anything in the entire world. ♥♥
  3. I am thankful for my students. They are my first children, and even though they are not children of my blood, they are children of my heart. Every day they amaze me with new things, and they encourage me to be a better person, whether they know it or not.
  4. I am thankful to have an amazing group of friends who I can call family. Even though we don’t all live close, I know that I can pick up the phone whenever and still be greeted by a cheerful hello.
  5. I am thankful that I have a home and a roof over my head, heat to keep me warm, and animals who love it when I come home.
  6. I am thankful that those that I love have the same things.
  7. I am thankful for the blessings of my nephews, the one that is blood related, and the one that isn’t. They’re both adorable, and I can’t wait to watch them grow up to be outstanding young men…hopefully along side my own little man.

I’m sure I could come up with more. But today, on this last day of work before I go on holiday break, I have to say, I feel more blessed and thankful than I have in a long time. I know that no matter what happens in the future, I come from a place of love, light, and warmth…and that I will give that same back to those around me.

May you all have a wonderful thanksgiving, filled with the people, places, and foods that you love. May the next year be as joyous as this one was, and may you all continue to be shining examples of what a good person is. Enjoy your turkey day!

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized

And So It Goes

Normally I try to keep my posts about work upbeat and happy. I’m afraid this isn’t one of those posts.

Let me preface this story by saying that I absolutely love what I do. I may not have always thought it was the best, and there are days that I’d much rather be at home with my son than with a raving mad bunch of teenagers. But, all in all, it is a worthwhile job. One that I find rather fulfilling.

That being said, I think it may be time for a change. Maybe it wasn’t the time I was ready for, but perhaps it is the time that a higher power thinks I need. Time will tell.

I began teaching the fall after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English. I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree until I ran into my high school French teacher. She told me of a program that the local school system had that would send you to some classes over the summer, put you in the classroom in the fall, and eventually give you a free Master’s degree. I didn’t have anything else to do, and kismet lead me down this path. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I applied, and was accepted. Looking back, part of me feels that it was probably a little bit because of my own teachers. My former French teacher was one of the mentors. My former calculus teacher, she was the lady in charge. If I had been someone else, I may not have gotten in at all. But they knew me, and I ended up joining the program, a bit more on track with a plan for my future.

I can’t say that my first year of teaching was anything but difficult. Not having any student teaching made the work even more complicated, but I persevered. Sure, my evaluations weren’t the greatest, but I was still learning, and I had a strong desire to learn. I wanted to get my whole body wet, not just my feet, and I ended up probably taking on more than I should have. I taught 9th grade English, both average and honors classes. One of my average classes was a collaborative class, which means that I had a large number of students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, and that didn’t make the job any easier.

I remember having two kids almost get into a fight in my room that year. I remember being scared as the boy instead attacked one of my filing cabinets with his fist. The dents in that cabinet are still there, as is my memory of that student. There was much to learn about his situation in later years, and it still amazes me to this day that he was able to accomplish so much with his life. He’s currently in the military, and I keep up with him from time to time on facebook.

The next three years, I worked on my Master’s degree curriculum at night, and finished that degree work. My salary went up, and my responsibilities at work changed. I moved from 9th grade to 10th, and with the new curriculum came new challenges. But each year was more rewarding than the last. My students sometimes “hated” me, I always loved them, and we more or less ended the school years on a positive note. I had a few elective classes thrown in there as well, which helped to break up the monotony.

But then, in the 2011-2012 school year, I was thrown for a loop. I remember getting a phone call the Monday before I needed to be back at work…basically two full weeks before students were to show up. I wasn’t going to be teaching 9th grade, nor was I going to be teaching my 10th grade classes, or my electives. Instead, I was going to be teaching Creative Writing. Four sections of it. Each one different. The woman who had taught those classes the year before retired, and it was now my duty to take the program over from her.

I was scared. I scrambled that entire time I was back at work. I wondered what I was going to do. I had no idea how to teach Creative Writing. In fact, during my degree work, I had never even taken a class on Creative Writing. I had no idea what I was doing. On top of it all, the woman who retired left next to nothing to help me, and when I reached out, I got the minimum help back.

My classes that year were a struggle. I had three classes which had only known the other woman as their teacher. One class was completely new, but a vast majority of them had no interest in writing whatsoever. There were plenty of days that I went home crying that first year. I struggled to make it work, I worried that my teaching career was going to be over so soon. But struggle through I did, and I made it out the other side.

Years passed, and I finally got the hang of it all. I love my program more than anything else that I have ever done as an educator. I feel as if I finally make a difference. My students come back and tell me about the impact I have had on their lives. I see my same students every year…it’s no longer an “unknown” filled with fear. My classes are my home away from home, and they are my little school family. Before I had my own son, these kids were my children, my babies. It’s so much more than I ever thought it could be.

And that’s where it goes, itsn’t it? You get comfortable. You feel that you are finally doing the thing you are supposed to be doing, and then things get shaken up.

Last week, I was told that the classe that I had grown to love, were no longer going to be mine. I hadn’t done a good enough job with recruiting new students to the program, so a new teacher would be taking it over in my stead. Someone who has ideas. Someone who is good with PR.

And I broke down.

I knew that it wasn’t going to be a good meeting as soon as I got the email. I was a bundle of nerves, planning for the worst. And the worst wasn’t far from what happened.

No, I still get to teach, but I will be back to my old classes, teaching English once again. The students that I’ve grown to know and love won’t be my babies anymore. They’ll be with someone else while I watch from the sidelines.

And it hurts so much. And it scares me.

Because I believe, in some part, about fate. Perhaps I got too comfortable. Perhaps I loved something a little too much. And now, it is being torn from my arms.

Whither shall I go from here? I don’t know. Will I stay? Will I teach somewhere else, do something new? Perhaps I will find something else to take the burden of this memory from me.

Whatever I do, I will carry my love for this program with me every day. I will continue to seek out my former students. Continue to make the connections that were ever so important to me. And I will remember what it was like to once love what you do with ever fibre of your being.

I will miss all of my babies. I will mourn over my loss. But I will remember that it is never the end. The road keeps going ever onward. And I will keep on trudging along.

Posted in Motherhood, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Uncategorized

On Being a Mother and a Teacher

Sorry about being away for so long…not that it was super noticeable. Such is the life of a mother, I suppose. I came down with a pretty bad cold, and then ended up on Spring Break…and that meant taking care of the Goober. Now I’m back on track and ready to write more about stuff and things!

Today’s thoughts come from a conversation that my students were having yesterday. They are often times some of the most insightful people I have in my life, surprising me at the most interesting moments. Yesterday was no exception.

So, I had given my students an assignment to simply write about their Spring Break. I know it wasn’t particularly interesting, but when you’re coming back from a long break, often times a simple, “Hey, we’re back here and we have work to do” assignment works best. My students were in various phases of their work. Some of them had thrown themselves into the writing, and others, per usual, were spending their time talking with someone next to them. They’re Juniors, I get it.

All of a sudden, one of my students pipes up with some random commentary. I’ll try to do her justice in my recollection of what she said.

“Mrs. A? Can I just talk for a minute? As I was writing, I had a thought. I’m almost an adult. I’m 16 years old. Soon, I’m going to be out of my house, going to be away from my family. Mrs. A…I’m scared. I don’t want to leave my mother! I just want to spend time with her. I think I realized that over spring break…I just wanted to be with her and spend time with her. And it makes me sad and scared to think that soon, I won’t be able to do that.”

Now, my students don’t normally talk a lot about their families, and when they do, I almost never get thoughts like these. Most of the time, it’s “Ugh, my mother is so annoying. She got mad at me over nothing!” But this…this conversation left me with a lot of thoughts. I listened to the rest of the class talk with her about their own thoughts on the matter, and it made my eyes tear up.

I think that part of it is again my newfound motherhood. That and my own connection with my own mother. It’s amazing how in hindsight we see things with such clarity. And it’s amazing how this one student sees with clarity right now how her relationship with her own mother is going to change.

While not everyone has a great relationship with their parents, seeing that they still exist makes my heart warm. We all go through growing pains with our parents, but knowing that time with them is precious is a valuable lesson to learn. Hearing that some of my students appreciate their parents gives me hope.

Do any of you remember having that feeling at any point? Are there any memories of your parents that you’d like to share? I look forward to seeing it in the comments!

Posted in Motherhood, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Uncategorized

The Trials and Tribulations of Teaching

How’d you like that use of alliteration? Beautiful wasn’t it? I’m not an English teacher…nope. Not at all.

Anywho, I figure since I’ve written at length lately about my own child, it’s time that I wrote about something that isn’t R but my other children. My students.

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from college with a B.A. in English.

And much like our character, Princeton, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. It really did seem like a useless degree…and for the most part it was. I had gone into English because it was the one major that wasn’t going to take me an extra year to finish when I transferred majors from Theatre Education (Yes, I use the British spelling. Sue me). I suppose that deep down I always knew I was going to be a teacher in one way or another. But at that moment, I didn’t know how to get started…didn’t know what I needed to do, what classes I still needed to take, nothing. I was lost.

So I went to a job fair, and there I ran into an old teacher of mine. My old French teacher, actually. And I can’t continue this story without thanking her. Because at that job fair, she gave me the guidance that I so very needed, guidance that has enabled me to have the career that I have had for the past 11 years. Without her, who knows where I would be right now. Madame T told me about a program that the school system had, one where I would take some classes over the summer, get a job in the fall, and have a free Masters degree by the end of three years. I signed up, was accepted, and began my journey as a teacher.

And a long journey it has been. In my eleven years, I have learned so much, not only about myself, but about the people in the community I serve, about the strength of students. Things that you don’t ever think about until you see them with your own eyes.

I started out teaching English to 9th grade high school students. It was not the easiest place in the world to reach kids. I was also 21, and students saw me more as a peer than as an authority figure, so it made things even more difficult. But as time went on, I developed my own style of teaching and discipline, and I’ve managed to make it through eleven years without too much of a fuss.

I currently teach Creative Writing instead of English, and that was a task in and of itself. I had never taken a Creative Writing class, much less taught it before I was given this program. I have never had to learn something so quick! But these past four years have been the best four years of my teaching career.

Where was I going with this? I don’t even remember. I just know that thinking about my students and the career that I’ve had so far fills me with a sort of nostalgia that almost makes me cry.

I ran into a former student two nights ago at Walmart. I couldn’t remember his name, but I remembered his face, and he definitely remembered me. He told me how he and his high school girlfriend were still together, how they had a son, and how he remembered me and my class. I don’t think much about the impact I leave. Sometimes I doubt that I leave much of an impact at all. But gosh darnit, if he didn’t look so happy to see me, and the way that he spoke about my class…it was one of those moments that I suppose every teacher gets. Where they realize that even though they don’t always realize it, they’ve made a difference to someone.

I talk about being a mother as if it’s this wholly new experience for me. But I suppose it’s not. I’ve had over a thousand children. None of them were mine by blood or birth, but they’ve all been mine for the short period of time that I knew them. And even if I can’t remember names any more, I still remember faces. I remember that once upon a time, they were no more than a fifteen year old with wide eyes, and maybe an attitude problem. And years later, they have grown into adults and remember me too.

If I ever have a bad day at work, at least I can sit back and think about those moments and be thankful that I have them. Because some jobs don’t have that. Even when my teaching time is done, there will be some part of me that lives on through the lives of my students. And that thought is comforting.

 

~Aly, aka The Mommy Gamer