If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Important Rite of Passage

This week I have been in a position so different for me and one I haven't experienced in such a long time that I had completely forgotten what it feels like and have been ultra-stressed about that sensation.  It has been overwhelming to take in all that I have been exposed to this week in the new path along this journey that I call a career and has thrown a whole new sensation in this journey that I call life. 

For the past eight years I have been a classroom teacher working with seventh and eighth graders who are learning or re-learning to appreciate (and sometimes even enjoy) interesting and informative literature.  For the past four years I have also been working with these adolescents to gain a stronger appreciation for the written word and satisfaction at growing as an impactful and articulate writer with a unique voice.  So, while each day was a new adventure and brought it's own new challenges, each also held a similar progression from August through to the next June.  I cannot say that it became routine and dull because teaching is NEVER that!  I can say that it became rather comfortable while at the same time it was intriguing to try to come up with a different way to make the age-old concepts become a part of my students' body of knowledge and mentor them toward discovering that knowledge in a meaningful way.  No two days were ever alike and no two years have ever been the same either.  Yet, that is NO comparison to what it has been like this week for me in wrestling with this new crook in the road of my teaching path.

I've generally considered myself capable with technology and even somewhat of a quick study at learning to maneuver my way through using new gizmos and tools.  However, this week I have felt like the old jokes folks made when I was growing up about their middle-aged mothers who couldn't absorb how to reprogram the VCR after a power failure and left the clock blinking 12:00 on-and-off, on-and-off...  Maybe I have just reached 'that age.' 

I've listened to the girls who share the office with me discuss and share tips about glitches in the Smartboard or throw around terms like 'domain' and 'gigs' and acronyms that make little to no sense to me even after I ask what the initials represent.  Most of the time I sort of felt like I had been dropped down into a new continent where folks speak a foreign language and I only hear a word or two which sounds somewhat familiar and even at that, it occurred only every now and then.  I've been given web addresses two, three, and even more times and still cannot recall them when it comes time for me to login or search for a file and open it to revise, add to, or simply edit.  (Yes, I have jotted down those web URLs but looking back through a half-full Composition Book full of notes that I wrote all this week takes time, too!)  By Friday afternoon at about two o'clock, my brain felt like it had been scrambled and fried into a huge, sloppy mush and I couldn't even remember how to do something simple like look into a computer's files and pull up something I had saved to my own file. 

Add to all that the fact that when I started out in the education business a little over fifteen years ago, the group of girls I was enfolded into, forming a department, found me one of the youngest and most energetic of our group.  Yet, this department perches me as the eldest in the lot by a couple of years and somewhat shorter on the Richter of energy levels, too.   Needless to say, I have come home every single day feeling STRESSED!  However, I am not completely daunted and have enjoyed the new challenges and hurdles I've been jumping while training for the 'real' match of guiding and mentoring other teachers when I go out into the field of classrooms in another week or so. 

I got a message from one of the teachers at a school where I am assigned to mentor which stated, "I am a new teacher at - her school is identified - in desperate need of some basic computer training!!!!!!!  What is the best route for my quest???  Just let me know!  Thanks so much!"  Boy!  did I know exactly how she feels!  Not only the wording of her plea seems like she is feeling flushed and hyperventilating, but all the punctuation certainly drives home her anxiety.  I have been experiencing almost the same emotions all this week - so much so that I even doubted that I would be the one who could assist this teacher. 

The good news is that today is Saturday and I have had a good night's sleep.  Plus, I even got to loll around later than the wake-up time I've had to return to for the past couple of weeks after a long summer hiatus. 

Then, my sweet husband was off from work, for a change, today and we got to spend some time outside in the garden and in the truck and sharing lunch with a couple of the grandchildren as well as one of our daughters. 

Next, we shared some time in the kitchen washing and preparing the veggies we had plucked for freezing and using later when the weather is not ultra-toasty.  In addition, we also had a few minutes to just plop down in a comfy chair in our cool, air-conditioned den with the television broadcasting a baseball game and a Southern Living magazine offering soothing photographs and good southern writing. 

Now, said hubby has slipped off to his fishing hole and I am getting to do a little leisure reading and writing.  What more could a person ask for on a Saturday? 

This refueling and idle time has truly brought me to a new appreciation of life and a refreshed attitude toward my career.  I've come to appreciate even more the opportunity this new career path offers me and feel more charged and capable to tackle the challenges which go along with it. 

I feel so fortunate that I am not stressed about planning something new and exciting and, most importantly, more effective to engage my students in the learning process for every single day this next week - planning something that is going to employ the newer and more up-to-date attitudes of this group of young people as well as include the tried-and-true strategies and all-important classic pieces of literature and conventions of language.  I know I now have plenty of time while I'm at work to focus on that sort of thing as a way to support others who are in the maze of that endeavor. 

I feel so fortunate that I don't have to wade through endless stacks of papers to learn what my students already know or have recently learned at the desks of my classroom and what I need to teach or re-teach them. 

I just feel fortunate that the opportunities I am now facing are different and really less stressful than those I brought home at this time last year and in the years past. 

I had forgotten that when I first started in this business all those years ago I felt...overwhelmed.  Then, when I changed schools, there was a whole new set of things bombarding me to overwhelm me.  Then, when I met a new set of students, there was a whole new set of things bombarding me to overwhelm me.  (Just learning all their names during the first couple of weeks is a big undertaking - not to mention learn about each of their learning needs and styles and personalities and behaviors and...well, you get the idea.)  I guess I just needed some time to step back and appreciate what really is important and what I have accomplished.  I guess I just needed to inhale deeply and exhale with a big puff to clear my head and make me realize that this, too, will become routine after a while. 

The thing that drove it home to me most was something I read during my leisure reading.  Sarah over at Clover Lane writes a blog that I follow.  Like her, I enjoyed my days surrounded by my children when they were growing up.  I am ever grateful (and awestruck) that I didn't have the house-full that she has but I did enjoy that era of my life.  I admire her and sometimes wish I had realized the wisdom she possesses when I was in the throes of mothering aacknowledges in her writing.  This week found her answering questions in an interview for another blog, Productive Parenting.com which you can find HERE

The most important line in that entire post, I think is this one: 

When asked, "What is the most important thing your children have taught you?"  her response was, "There is and will be nothing bigger in my life than what I am doing now. That having babies is a gift never to be taken for granted. That I can learn so much from those that have parented before me, and those that are parenting with me. To watch for my best and worst moments, and then make changes to make less worse and more best happen."

What sage advice!  After all, in every single thing we do, shouldn't we adapt such an attitude? 

We cannot stand on our laurels and we do not have to wallow in our failures.  We get to wake up each morning and try to do something else new in this world.  Plus, there is always something to be learned from those who came before us and those around us - no matter what it is we are attempting. 

I am lucky that Mike and I have the children we have.  They have each turned out to be productive citizens who are impressively successful in their own ways, considerate of others in many ways, and insightful in their choice of mates - and all this in spite of all the mistakes we each made along the way of guiding and mentoring them toward their independence!   Each of them is a gift in her or his own way and have even presented us with more gifts of their mates and children. 

And, finally, isn't it ever and always important to watch for our own best and worst moments and then make changes to make less of the worse and more of the best happen? 

P.S.  Thank you God for the time to rest and refuel, for a mate with whom to share that experience, for the gifts you continually give us, and for the wise words of a fellow blogger.