On Carving Out Space

April 20, 2016

In my day, for breath

After the priorities

Have been shuffled through —
A release, perhaps

Of expectation, or the

Desire for different
Such is the promise

Of a few moments caught at

The end of long days. 

Packing Up

January 7, 2015

I love to write. It’s an outlet, a passion of mine.

Up until today, I’ve had two blogs: this one for my education rants and musings, and another for who I am outside of the school day.

Time to simplify. I’m condensing down to one blog. One, that is, until life around me gets simple enough to go back to two separate publications.

Come visit me over at my other space. I’d love to have you!

Lessons I’m Learning

October 11, 2013

Here I am, two months into my new job. I have to say that it’s already an incredible experience. Of course, a new placement  puts me on a learning curve. But quite honestly, I love that about life. I love being challenged and asked to do tricky things. Don’t many of us?

Here, then, is a list of just some of what I’ve learned. You might see some of these themes in future blog posts, but thought I’d sum up here.

1. It’s hard to leave colleagues. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my former co-workers. I miss the laughs we had in the copy room, the after school “book clubs,” the discussions and – yes, sometimes – disagreements we had about our kids and how we thought it best to work with them.

2. It’s hard to leave students and families. How strange it was to stand in the hallway that first day of school in my new job. Were this my old school, I’d be hugging and high-fiving just about everybody. I’d know all the kids’ names and be chatting about their summers. Instead, I kept quiet and soaked up the vibe. I miss those kids, and I hope they are doing well.

3. There will always be new colleagues, new kids and new families. I could say that I’m surprised and overwhelmed by how welcome the staff and families at both of my schools have made me feel. I think that would be a lie. Of COURSE they have made me feel welcome. How could I expect otherwise? The people I work with demonstrate tireless dedication to kids, incredible teaching skills, and some of them have a pretty wicked sense of humor. They amaze me every day. As for the kids, nothing beats their sincerity, their joy, and their enthusiasm for learning.

4. Leadership, leadership, leadership. I have always known how important great leadership (as opposed to management) can be. It’s amazing to be in a place where I can live it. I look at the systems and structures in place, and it’s clear to me that there is forethought, purpose and vision behind everything. Insert sigh of relief <<here>>.

5. Sometimes teaching IS everything. It has been a long time since I have been in a position to pour all of my energy into teaching. It’s almost scary what a difference that time and energy will do. More posts soon on some of the cool things my students and I have been able to accomplish in the short time we’ve been together.

6. Welcome to Disneyland. Around here, where schools are generously funded and richly supported by families and communities that give time and resources, there is a tendency for districts to say that they are like Disneyland. And you know what? They’re RIGHT. With this new job, I’ve gone from one Disneyland to another. How incredible it is to work in places where you don’t have to hold gift wrap sales to buy copy paper and chalk. How wonderful to be teaching children whose parents are so invested and involved.

But, my friends, even Disney has its other side. Discovering that fact in my former district nearly led to a possible burn-out and end to my teaching career. I can look back and say that now. Really. I think if I had allowed myself to continue on that path, I would not be teaching in another five years.

And as cynical as it might sound to say it, I know my new Disneyland will have its darker side. I can look ahead and say that now, because I’ve always known that any situation we find ourselves in can be at once magnificent and unlivable. Now, however, I think I understand how important it is to find a way through whatever problems come my way without actually internalizing them.

Until then, you can find me in line for Space Mountain. I’m enjoying the ride.

On Second Thought (or Third, or Fourth…)

August 15, 2013

Ugh.

So the other night I wrote this post about leaving one position for another. At the time that I wrote it, I thought it was a pretty tight piece of writing, if I must say so myself.

Still.

I couldn’t help but look back over it and pick back over the words that I used. “Quiet desperation?” I guess that fits the meaning, but does it sound too dramatic for the tone of the piece? 

All I had to do was to reach back in and make another edit, another tweak here and there, and I could feel better about my writing. Clicking back on the “edit” link allowed me to see the history on that post. You know what I saw? Eleven sentences. Almost an hour. Over 20 revisions – a word here, a sentence there. Ouch.

I can that some of you out there are shaking your heads and wondering if there is some sort of chemical imbalance that forces me to obsess over my writing. Others of you are nodding your heads in agreement because you know you’re the one doing the same thing to your own creative work.

It’s funny how we talk so much about helping kids through their perfectionism. So much of what I do is teaching children to feel confident and satisfied with who they are and what they can do. And granted, we need to strive for quality, but at what point do we recognize that it’s time to let the work stand on its own? 

So here’s the experiment I’ll try. I’m going to finish typing this blog post, this one right here, and I’m going to walk away from it. One shot to put my writing together. One shot to craft my words. And then I shall release it. I shall be proud of and satisfied by my efforts.

Here goes. Deep breath.

 

The Switch

August 12, 2013

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She shouldered her bag and glanced out at the tree, reflecting green in its early June growth.

Her mind ticked off a mental checklist. (She was always a lister.) Desk emptied. Car loaded. Keys turned in.

One more look around the room to take it all in, to absorb the light reflected from the emotional spectrum. The vibrant glow of voracious learning. The cool, clear trust between respected colleagues. The muted, quiet desperation of a teacher who saw herself slipping away from the person she wanted to be.

With equal parts strength and surrender, she turned out the light for what she knew would be the final time, and closed the door quietly behind.

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In Gratitude

May 13, 2013

Dear Friday Afternoon Me,

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for being so well organized (AND doing my lesson plans, even).

All The Best,
Monday Morning Me

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The Best (and Hardest) Part of My Day

April 24, 2013

(overheard in my third grade math group as some kids were trying to put a math problem together from random words and numbers)

Them: Mrs. Levin, this is hard!
Me: Yep. It is. You’re not complaining, are you?
Them: No.
Me: Oh good. Because you deserve to have things hard sometimes.
(more work, more missing the target)
Them: Is there even an ANSWER TO THIS?
Me: Yep.
(more work, still no answer)
Them: This is IMPOSSIBLE!!
Me: Nope. Nope, it’s not.
Them: This is so FRUSTRATING!
Me: Yep. And you deserve frustrating. You deserve the chance to work for something really hard.
(more work, still no answer)
Me: (taking some index cards with the words and numbers on them) Here, try arranging these until you find something that works.

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(shuffling the cards, switching and swiping, still no answer)

Them: Mrs. Levin, are you SURE this has an answer?
Me: Yep, I’m sure.
(more shuffling, more debating, until EUREKA!)

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THE HARDEST PART
Watching them and saying nothing even though these kids were SO DARN CLOSE, SO MANY TIMES. My tongue still has bite marks on it.

THE BEST PART
Me: See what I mean? You struggled through something and then you did it? How do you feel now?
Them: Super-awesome.
Me: Yeah. ‘Cause you ARE awesome. Awesomely awesome.

Mother’s Lament (NaPoWriMo Day 9)

April 9, 2013

I can taste it,
Like the first bite of a hot-fudge sundae
Or a gooey, cheesy pizza
So delightful
Rich
Decadent,
Yet well-deserved.

I long for it
From deep within my bones
I hunger
I ache

For a
Good
Night’s
Sleep

Why I Don’t Write Limericks (NaPoWriMo Day 7)

April 7, 2013

Sometimes as a matter of course
My thoughts into structure I’ll force
In my strong efforts I’ll
Replace substance with style
(Putting the cart before horse)

Signs of Spring – National Poetry Month Day 6

April 6, 2013

Signs of Spring

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The hostas, in hushed whispers
Poke their heads from the earth
And signal an all-clear

The crocus responds
Gentle, persistent,
Not wishing to interrupt
But clear to any who listen

And others, in turn, join the crescendo:
Daffodil, tulip, forsythia, lilac

Silenced, I join the world in
The deep, full breath
I had almost
Forgotten how to take.