Thursday, May 28, 2015

The loneliness Birds

It's that time of year again.

40 blue plastic chairs stacked high in the corner.  18 desks piled on top of each other.  All 310 of my World Geography books are stacked neatly against the wall.  There are new art pieces and graduation announcements on my wall yet the room feels so empty.

And I'm still here.

It's so weird how every year at this time I feel the exact same thing but each year it feels so fresh, so deep, so intense that I swear there's no possible way I've felt this feeling before.  But alas I look back and remember writing about it here, here, here, here, or here.

So yes, clearly I have felt this before.

I am positive I'll feel it again.

But it doesn't mean it doesn't affect me now.  I get so sad.  I feel so hopeless.  Mostly I feel so lonely.

Each year when I feel this, I try and describe it.  In the past I've describe it as feeling like everyone else gets to leave NeverNever Land except me.  They all get to grow up and change.  Experiences things so much cooler than junior high........ but I'm stuck here.

This year I'll add to this feeling because it is starting to feel a bit different.  You see every year I'm afraid that there is no possible way that I could love my students next year as much as I love them "this year."  And sure enough I love my students the "next year"  but here is where the disheartening part comes in.  You see I don't know my students as much as I have in the past.  My heart doesn't ache quite as much for them when I know they are going through tough things.   I don't get quite as excited when I know I've changed their lives either.  You see each year I am afraid I give a part of my heart and soul to that group of students.  And what scares me is I see with each and every year that I have less and less to give.  I don't have as much enthusiasm, I don't have as much concern, I don't have as much heart and soul to offer.

You are probably thinking, "Well duh.  We all had the young vibrant teacher that changed our lives but we also all had the old washed out teachers that were just paying their dues until they retired."
It's sad to watch that happen.

It's sad to watch that change.

I'm fighting like heck to make sure that doesn't happen.

I am fighting like heck to be the best teacher I can be.

And for this exact reason, summer vacation is so important.  Each year when my students off and fly away I need a whole summer of resting, scheming, and most important energizing to remember that although there isn't as much heart and soul as there once was, there still is some.  And I am going to use all the energy I can muster to create the best darn 15 year old punks I can.

But until then.... the loneliness birds.  If you have never watched or read the story of The Power of One then it probably sounds weird.  But I recently read the book and show the movie every single year.  Oddly enough, I feel the movie is way more powerful and meaningful than the book.  But the best part of the book is getting into Peekay's head.  This cute little English boy in South Africa who has seen way too much death and hate in his life.  The way he describes sadness is the loneliness birds.  And so today as I sit in my empty classroom mourning the loss of another class of punk 15 year old kids.... I feel the loneliness birds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kids can do hard things.

Sounds like a simple sentence right?  Of course we know that kids can do hard things.  Everyone can do hard things.

But I feel like I have to write this down so I don't forget it.

I teach World Geography - have for years.  One of the main standards for the class is to have a realistic mental map of the world.  At the beginning of the year I hand out a blank map of the world.  It's terrifying to see that the mass majority of the students can only label United States and possibly Canada and Mexico.  (You'd be shocked how many can't even do that.)  But I push through and do this assignment every year no matter how sad it is for me to see.  I do it so that my students and I can see how a year of hard work can pay off.  Every year I've flirted with different ideas of finals for the class.  I started with a multiple choice test of 70 major countries around the world that evolved to naming those 70 countries without any type of word bank that eventually led me to yesterday.

This year my final was this: identify 158 countries by name without anything except a numbered map and a piece of paper.

My friend's, who loves the world, reaction, "I don't even think I can do that!"

I was worried.  Super worried.  158 names especially crazy names we've never heard of like Azerbaijan or Eritrea or Burkina Fuso.... that's tough.  And honestly I can understand why a logical rational adult would say, "Why?"  In a world of maps and technology at our constant finger tips why in the world would I make my students memorize 158 countries.  I was scared that I would get backlash on the waste of this test.  I really was. (It's not over.... we'll see.)

But let me explain my logic.

First, they were tested on 158 countries throughout the year, so really this final exam - if they studied along the way - should just be a review.

Second, if they memorize 158 countries again for the final there is a higher chance they'll remember a portion of those for the rest of their lives.  (I have quizzed multiple high school seniors and on average they still remember at least 100 of them)

Third, sadly, memorization is something that students today aren't taught.  The basic skill is not part of any core standards and so teachers understandably focus on other things.  In my humble opinion this is detrimental for anyone.

But still I was worried.  158 countries is a lot.  I was worried because what happens if all my students fail?  What happens if none of them study, none of them do well, none of them accomplish my goal?  I was so scared that I told the students that the test would be out of 140 instead of 158.  That meant they'd have 18 they could get wrong and still get 100%

I think this is a huge concern for teachers.  Honestly, I think this is why sometimes we don't push students very hard.  Afraid students won't measure up.  Afraid of the backlash. Afraid it isn't worth the fight.

And then I gave the test to my first class yesterday.

The most unbelievable thing happened.  As soon as class started they begged for the test.  They silently put their heads down and got to work.  They wrote and wrote and wrote.  They shook their hands out when they got tired, they quickly ran to the pencil sharpener so they could get back to work.  They worked their tales off.  The results?

I don't know why I was scared.  I don't know why I questioned.  Silly me.  Somehow I forgot.  Kids can do hard things.  With the proper scaffolding and encouragement, kids can do anything.

My class average on the test yesterday.  Not out of the silly 140 total I had nervously created.  But out of the 158 countries....


That means on average my 105 students I taught yesterday could from memory identify 142 countries around the world.

I have never been so proud.

Now I get it.  They will probably forget these countries by tomorrow.  They may never use this information ever again.  But my kids learned something about themselves yesterday that I hope they will take with them for the rest of their lives.  They can do hard things.

And sadly, the most tragic thing that I see as a teacher over and over and over again, sometimes parents don't want to let them.  Parents say they can't.  Parents that honestly probably believe they can't.  It's a fight getting kids to do hard things.  It's a pain.  And sometimes it doesn't seem worth it.

But yesterday when I saw the sense of accomplishment from those kids.  When I saw the huge grins on their faces as they told me their score.  I felt something and I know they felt something.  And hopefully that lesson lasts way longer than their memory of any test or any assignment they had at PG junior high.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Other Side of Mother's Day...

Time is probably the thing that fascinates me the most about aging.  "Time heals all wounds"  It really is so strange how time can change everything.  It can make to hardest trial seem possible, the most intense pain seem passible, even the worst transgression forgivable.  How incredibly grateful we all must be for time.  The way it goldenizes the past, washes over the ugly parts, and makes us remember the past with absolute fondness.

I am so grateful for this, I am.  But sometimes I am bummed about it.  I am bummed because I think it makes us so incredibly insensitive.  We forget the pain, the fear, the insecurity, whatever the hard thing was.... we forget.  Things that at some point in our lives were clearly very difficult, we forget.

And then out of no where every once in a while it strikes.  A blast from the past.  And then we vaguely remember.  It happened to me Saturday night.  It was my high school's prom.  I was having so much fun looking at all the pictures their moms were posting of Facebook of the couples before they went off to the dance.  And I realized a girl I care deeply about didn't get asked.  My heart just ached for her.  I told Jason and his response was, "How did she not get asked?  Everyone goes to prom."  It's crazy how it struck.  All the intense pain, the embarrassment, the absolute shame.  I said, "Jason I didn't get asked to my junior prom."

Even saying that.... was hard.

Right now I feel like I need to defend myself, make sure you don't think I was a loser, loner, or any of the awful things that I thought about myself.  I feel like I need to say, "But I got asked to 2 other proms, I got asked to every other dance of high school."

But that's the crazy thing about time.  Rarely do I ever think about that dance.  Rarely do I even remember the whole awful mess...... even though all day every day I am dealing with sensitive incredibly insecure teenagers.  I should be so much more sympathetic.  So much more understanding.  But I've thankfully, for the most part, gotten over it.

I truly am grateful that with time all things can be forgotten or lessened or eased.  I really am.  But sometimes it's hard.  It's hard going through something and feeling like no one understands, no one can relate. Because if they could understand or relate, there's no way they would be saying the things they do.  Almost like people are trying to make the pain worse.  When, of course, that isn't true.  Of course no one tries to make someone feel terrible.  So why oh why do we do things that make people feel so bad?  I think more often it's that we've forgotten.  We've forgotten the tender spots, the sensitivities, the pain.

Yesterday was an incredibly tough day.  As a way I've often used to cope with tough days, I was sitting there wracking my brain trying to think of what someone could say to make me feel better.  What could a speaker say?  What could a message be?  If I was the one speaking, what would I have said differently?  How could we make lemonade out of this awful, bitter lemon?  And honestly, no words came.

I could not think of a single thing that someone could have said or done to make the pain of yesterday go away.

And I think that's a good thing to remember sometimes.  That sometimes there aren't words.  There isn't an easy fix.  And sometimes that's okay.  It makes us human.  It makes us humble.  It makes it so much easier to turn to the only place where we can truly find peace.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I have a dream.

It really is pretty comical to look at the cycle of my life.  Whether it's due to the axis' tilt or the seasons of the school year, the ebbs and flows of my life are pretty predictable.  About this time every school year I get pretty nostalgic.  I finally start to pull my head out of the grindstone to look at the larger perspective and scheme of things.  With the smell of summer coming I try to cram in as much wisdom as I possible can into my punk 15 year old kids.

Every year this feeling that comes, I think it's unique, different from the past, but then I read my journal or blog from previous years at this time and realize.... this feeling is exactly the same.  This end of school year feeling never changes, it's always been there.  And hopefully, as sad and reflective as it makes me, it never doesn't come.

I don't know what it is about this time of year but there is this feeling of change, a feeling of urgency, an urge to seize the day.  So, of course, this is the time of year when I start throwing out advice like they'll actually listen.  Like something I make them do or say to them will actually help them be on a better course of life.  Sadly, year after year I am starting to see that really, no matter what I do or say, their decisions really aren't going to change much.  Really I don't make that big of difference.  But hopefully, I do somehow.  Like my favorite Gandhi quote says, "You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results."

But that's not the point of this........ well expressing my feelings is always the point of this..... but the point is, all the time we tell kids, "Don't be scared to try"  or "You can do anything if you put your heart into it!"....... sometimes I feel so hypocritical saying that.  Me in my cave of a classroom.... really is this what my heart wants to do?  Am I really not scared to try anything?  To put myself out there?  To do what I want to do?

I have lots of dreams in life.  Some big, some small, some I should be working harder to accomplish while others there is nothing I can do but patiently wait.

So this summer I decided it's time to cross another dream off my bucket list.  It's time for me to actually act on my dreams.  Actually live what I preach.  So while Jason is working for his dad this summer I decided this is my perfect chance, my golden opportunity!

I am working at Disneyland!

I've gone through the general interview process and now I am just waiting to meet with a recruiter to find a job that will work for me when I get down to Southern California in 3 weeks!

I've been shocked by the responses I've received when I tell people.  My little brother called me a dork, my mom was worried about the distance (yes, I'll be commuting like 70 miles), yes I recognize I will be very overqualified and under paid, but my dad, he got it.  He was so excited for me!  He was thrilled I am going to do it.

So now I am just dreaming about a whole summer spent in the happiest place on earth!  And man I am excited!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Minimalist Living.

It's the craze that's sweeping the nation.  The idea of living off of as few commercial products as possible.

I have a confession.  I hate things.  Hate.  While I am not all about the hocus pocus of the "freedom" of not owning material goods......... honestly, I guess I am.  The more things I own and am in charge of the more weight I feel, the more burdened I feel, the more trapped I feel.

Great, that means I should just not have stuff.  That doesn't sound so difficult now does it?

Except I married Jason.  He loves stuff.  He loves tools.  He loves anything that he can use to make life more enjoyable, or comfortable, or fun.  Even if he doesn't use it, he wants it.  It brings him freedom.

So that leaves me in quite the pickle.  Things trap me while freeing him.  How about that for exact opposite? :)  More importantly, it leaves me exploring why I hate stuff so much.  Why is it that even the idea of how much stuff we own creates an image of a ball and chain on my leg that I'll be dragging behind me for the rest of eternity..........

I did the math.  In the last 14 years of my life, I have moved 20 times.  By the end of the summer, in Jason and I's 2.5 years of marriage.... we will have moved 8 times.

It wasn't until last night that it hit me how absolutely insane and abnormal that is.  And anyone that hears those types of number can understand why I hate stuff.  In the history of white people problems (or first world problems if you want to be PC about it)...... moving is probably up there on the list of the most awful things one could possibly encounter along with the customs lines at international security or Diet Cokes without styrofoam cups or a lime.  The. Worst.

I hate moving.

Which is ironic seeing how I have moved more than anyone I know in the last 14 years of my life.  And this year is no exception.  Which brings me to the whole point of this blogpost.  I am sure you have been sitting on the edge of your seat wondering, "Where is Kristin going to live this summer???"

But first let's review.
The Summer of 2007 or the Wanna Be Door to Door Sales Girl. (Atlanta to Annapolis)

The Summer of 2008 or the Raw Foodist that realized she HATES statistics. (BYU Masters)

The Summer of 2009 or the (500) Days of Shane.

The Summer of 2010 or The Introduction to Chi Town.

The Summer of 2011 or Lovin' in Los Angeles.

The Summer of 2012 or Cruising around the Mediterranean while my heart was in Provo.

The Summer of 2013 or Livin' off Love - the return of the Student Life Style.

The Summer of 2014 or Red Rocks, Rock Climbs, and Dixie.

Which brings us to the Summer of 2015. I know, I know, you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation of where we'll be in less than 4 weeks......

San Diego!

Jason's parents have been kind enough to offer to let us come live in paradise for 2 months this summer.  Jason will be working for this dad to really get his hands wet in the dental industry before he starts dental school in the fall.  And what will I be doing this summer????

Well of course,

But what else you might ask????

Be be continued. :)