Teaching and Living in the Middle

A National Board Certified Middle Childhood Generalist Teacher . . . in the Middle of My Teaching Career . . . in the Middle of Life . . .
and Life in the Middle is a wonderful place to be!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

I look at my empty classroom:  the school-wide movie theme is evident, attractive border has been placed around doors and windows, book tubs are cleaned and ready in the classroom library, and other than a few assorted odds and ends – we are ready for “Go Time.”  I have made choices about desk placement, first day activities, and classroom routines.  I hope they are good choices.  I am hoping that I have made this an inviting kid-friendly place to be. 

There are so many pressures on teachers now, so many things we don’t have a choice in; the politics of teaching, the curriculum, sometimes even in the subjects we teach, the places we teach, or the philosophy of instruction where we teach.  Ultimately though, none of that really matters when those students walk through the door.  They don’t want to be seen as a test score on a school or teacher report card, or an FTE on a school roster – they just want to feel like they matter.  They wonder, “Will my teacher like me?  Will the kids in my class be nice to me?  Will I feel safe?  Will school be fun this year?  I would like to think that they also wonder if they are going to learn amazing things – and I am hoping that one is on the list too – okay, I know it’s pretty far down there sometimes – but I hope it’s on there.

No, I can’t control all of that other stuff – it isn’t in my power to do so.  But I do have the power to control what happens when they walk inside that classroom door.  By the very tilt of my head and tone of my voice, I set the stage of what is to be for the next 9 months or so.  That doesn’t seem like such a very long time – but in the life of a child it can seem like forever. 

And come next spring when it is all over, all of that daily contact will have resulted in little pieces of me walking back out the door.  This will be my twentieth year of teaching, and the one thing I have learned is that I want the pieces that they carry with them to be good pieces.  I want them to take into their futures those pieces of me that are the best that I have to give - a passion for learning, the love of reading, the power to persevere when the going gets tough, and the capacity to see hope and light even when the corners are dark and the path is unsteady.

So, on that first day – I will be there with my “A Game” – with the best that I have to give, because that is all I have control over.  That is where I have the power to make a difference.  That is why I am here.   That is why they call me “Teacher.”


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

I remember looking across the crowded room, noticing that there wasn’t an empty seat.  I didn’t know most of the people who came there that day – doctors, nurses, and various staff at the hospital where my mother had worked for over twenty-five years.  There were at least several hundred people there.

There were so many flowers, so many cards and expressions of love.  It was clear that she was someone who was cherished, someone who would be missed.  And I know that this would have surprised my mother greatly.  A sudden and unexpected heart attack had taken her life at the age of sixty-three, and we were there that day to say our goodbyes.

I am reminded of that day today, and of her life because of the sudden passing of Robin Williams.  As I scroll through my facebook page, and watch the news; I wonder if he too would be surprised by the outpouring of love and grief.  I suspect he would be.  That’s what depression does.

That’s what depression does.  It is such an insidious disease.  It builds a wall of illusion between the person who is suffering and the people around them, so that the love and caring can’t get in.  I know the many times I tried, and failed to scale that wall with my own mother.  And the many times she also tried to take her own life.

As with many people who suffer from depression, my mother’s life was one of continuous struggle.  She had to fight to stay here, and when she became so weary that she could no longer hang on, she resorted to the unthinkable act to end her pain.  Fortunately, although she came close a few times, she was never successful.  I do believe though that she died of a broken heart – that’s what depression does.  It breaks the hearts and lives of the person who is afflicted, and those around them.

I pray that someday depression will lose its stigma, so that we can unlock the mystery of this terrible illness – because that’s what depression is.