Let’s start with that job interview I mentioned earlier. I believe I mentioned in my last blog post that I went to Denver for an interview. It was a really interesting experience. I had to teach a sample lesson on an assigned standard to a group of 8th graders I’ve never met and may never see again. If that sounds strange and nerve-racking to you, it’s because it is. Luckily I prepared myself for every possible thing that could go wrong. I brought all my copies for my lesson plan with me. I made a google slides presentation that I saved as a powerpoint that I also saved to my flashdrive. I brought my own dongle so that I would be guaranteed to hook my computer up to the projector. And all of my prep came in handy because I couldn’t connect to the WiFi and there was no dongle adapter for a macbook computer. And instead of spending the 15 minutes allotted before my interview began making copies, I was able to drink some water, use the bathroom and calm my nerves. My nerves needed a lot of calming. The whole process, including observations, two interviews and a sample lesson, took about 3 hours. Despite all of that, it was really an amazing experience and whether or not I get the job (I’ll find out sometime this month), I’m extremely glad I went out there and gave it a shot. Plus I got to hike, climb some mountains, drink great beer, eat great food and spend a nice little vacation with my boyfriend.
Now my lovely winter break. At TEP, we get a slightly longer break than the Philadelphia School District, but we run on a very similar schedule. I finished my last of 5 papers on December 18th, which despite sounding excruciating, was pretty enjoyable. I wrote a curriculum outline for a proposed two-day workshop on the Internet and social media for students and teacher for my adolescent development class. The whole paper really focused on how to help students understand how social media and the Internet are shaping their lives and identities, both in positive and negative ways. It also focused on how it can help shape their education and how teachers can start understanding and integrating web based learning into their classrooms. My first semester was really stressful. It’s very difficult to balance 5 classes, student teaching, lesson planning, homework and the rest of my life. It can be very easy to lose sight of myself and what is important to me, outside of education. It’s incredibly difficult to be a good teacher, friend, daughter, student, long distance girlfriend, peer, and doggy mom all at the same time. So my two and a half week break from trying to be it all was very refreshing. I spent a lot of my time with my family and my friends from back home. I got to go to Austin and visit my boyfriend to spend NYE together.
Monday, January 4th, was my first full day of student teaching and Tuesday was my first day of class of my last semester! I have worked in a school before so I am used to the full day, but I was extremely exhausted after a full day at school and then traveling to class at night. When I came home, I made dinner, took my dog out, packed my lunch, set up my coffee pot and passed out.
As exhausted as I was, it’s really nice to be back with my students. I actually really enjoy staying at the school for the entire day. It allows me to feel more a part of the school and the school community. I’m starting to feel more and more like a teacher, and what’s even scarier, more and more like an adult. I find myself looking forward to cleaning my apartment on the weekend and being excited to have a glass of wine and watch a movie on Saturday nights. I’m discovering new ways to take care of myself and making sure I feel energetic, positive and fulfilled have become priorities in my life.
The one thing I realized after my first semester was that it’s incredibly difficult to wear all my hats all the time. While I CAN be everything: a daughter, a partner, a doggy mom, a student, a teacher, a friend and a peer but it’s impossible to give everything 100% all the time. It’s become very evident that I can’t be a great teacher, a great student, a great partner and the best friend all the time, everyday. The first night I spent at my parents house after the semester ended, I slept for 15 hours. I was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. Despite how easy it was to come to the conclusion that I can’t give my all to everything and everyone in my life, it’s a lot more difficult to stop trying to do so.
Each day is a decision. Even more specifically, each moment is a decision. Last semester I carried the burden of assignments, my long distance relationship, hundreds of pages of reading, lesson plans, supporting my peers, finding time to exercise, grading papers, taking care of my dog, taking care of myself, and perhaps the most heavy- I started to carry around the weight of my student’s sadness: their struggles, their stories of abuse and neglect, their failures and frustrations, their tears and their anger and all the injustices they face on a daily basis. I walked around with all this weight on my shoulders, trying to find a way to balance all of it. Every morning I woke up with it. Every night I came home with it. And everyday I walked around, sinking further and further into the ground from the weight of the world.
In each moment of my day, I am now making a conscious decision of how much of myself I give away. When a student stays after to discuss a grade or an assignment, and ends up in tears because the truth behind the incomplete or failing grade stems from a story of abuse, I must decide how much of that I am going to take home with me and how much of myself I am going to let go of in that moment. When I open my planner and see I have two chapter to read, a blog assignment to write and a week’s worth of lesson plans to complete, I need to prioritize which of all those things that need to be complete in the next 5 hours is going to take the most out of me. When I haven’t heard my boyfriend’s voice in over a week, haven’t gotten a chance to catch up on my favorite TV show, haven’t gone for a run in a few days, haven’t checked in with my mom and desperately want to have a glass of wine while chatting with a friend, I need to make a choice on which of those things is going to be the best for my health. Last semester, I really tried to do it all. I read every single page, gave 100% on every single assignment, created tons of engaging lessons, supported my partner at every moment, called my mom, drank my wine, watched my shows, and took on the pain and struggles of every student who came to me. And honestly… I really started to lose myself.
My experience in education, particularly as a young adult, has shown me how easy it is to lose sight of who you are. If you are truly invested in working in education, you so quickly become an educator. It becomes your identity, and so easily, becomes your only identity. I am a teacher. I am educator. But I’m also so much more. And I love all the other things I am just as much as I love my role as an educator. So this semester, I’m really making an effort to balance who I am. I’m starting to realize part of what makes me a great teacher… is just being who I am. And I can’t lose that. I will not only be doing a disservice to myself, my health and all those who love me, but ultimately, if I lose sight of who I am and all the love and happiness that brought me to where I am, I will be a disservice to my students.
Keep in touch to find out more about my journey! Soon I’ll be starting to fill you in on my teacher research. How exciting!