Friday, February 22, 2013

What I Choose

Some weeks – some days – are easier than others. This was not one of those easy weeks. One, my husband has been getting more and more interested in education. To the point I am explaining testing, standards, funding, etc.

You know how we, as educators, already know certain things don’t make sense, but then you explain it to someone out loud and all of the crazy items that are our every day reality are verbalized? Yep, that’s where I was at. Trying to explain why we have certain tests. How we are compared to countries like Finland. The policies on testing students with severe disabilities. It isn’t that he wasn’t asking good questions that was the issue. The fact that he is not an educator, but saw the complete insanity in some (most) of these mandates yet no politician can, made me a bit crazy.

Then I read this letter drafted by the Illinois Principal’s Association and I got more irritated. (Click HERE and then on the link below the line that reads: Attachments.) I mean seriously, let’s look at all of the unfunded mandates. I think a reality check might be in order.

And then Luke – my oldest – was sick. All. Week. Long. Low-grade temp and headache. My husband and I alternated staying home with him. I had the pleasure of teaching all day and then doing 1-2 hours more of test prep with him every night. And I don’t begrudge his teachers in the slightest for sending it home. They are trying to prepare him for something that is insane, and only going to get worse.

And so, here I am. And while I am grumpy as I think over the week, I am pushing myself, once again, to choose a different attitude. This political “stuff” (for lack of a better word) can make you insane. And I will keep fighting it. But for my own sanity I am going to sit here on a Friday afternoon and reflect on these moments from this week. Because it is moments like these that make me want to teach again on Monday:
·      Fifth Grade boy humor. "Mrs. S, did you know Uranus is a gas giant? That Uranus is blue? That Uranus is lazy because it spins on its side?" Tears streaming.
·      Josh asking Riley what page he was on in Dark Life and then high-fiving him for being on the same page. Both of them huddling up to discuss the book at a table.
·      A former student being chosen as the middle school student of the month. One of the hardest workers with the best attitudes I have ever taught. Can’t think of anyone more deserving. And a huge Babymouse fan to boot!
·      Being so disappointed in my class that my voice broke when I was talking to them over something silly. Having one of them hug me later and say they knew I cared because I was willing to cry in front of them. And I do. J
·      Having to talk to my intervention class about books as I held a Kleenex to my nose for a freak 20 minute nose bleed. One student smiled at me, while summarizing Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years and told me that “this” was a first.
·      Book talking numerous books purchased at Anderson’s over the weekend. They all now have waiting lists.
·      Having my students share what stories my mom tells when she subs for me.
·      Writing a poem about my grandfather’s dog, Cookie. Having an amazing conversation with my students about why we make the choices we do as a result.

I ended my shortened day today (home now with Luke) by lying on the carpet next to a student and discussing the merits of Rick Riordan’s books and which ones we liked best. I was completely relaxed. As I sat in reflection I realized that there was a quiet peace in the room. Twenty-four kids – large eleven-year-old bodies – were spread around the classroom. You could hear quiet conversations about books, pages turning. And I came back to this. As much as I’d like to, I cannot control what happens outside of my classroom. I will continue to speak up for what I know is wrong. But this classroom? I can control what it is like. I choose this. I choose conversations over books, silly lessons on what Parkour is (thanks boys), discussions with my girls about how we need to remember the lesson of the exclamation mark when we enter middle school, belly laughs where the tears come, tears from true feelings, and the feeling of peace I get while lying on the carpet sharing thoughts around a book. The negative stuff can bring me down. These fabulous faces and these real experiences remind me of what is really important. And that is what I’m taking with me into this weekend and all of the days to come.