Summertime: Time to rebuild and renew

The last week of June I was itching for the school year to end. Every morning, I woke up annoyed. Baby Jack and Dale would be at home playing, dancing, singing and learning together. Arggggg. I had to drive forty minutes to work, write final reports and teach kids who didn’t want to be in class. BLAH.

I used every last ounce of my energy trying to apply the strategies I have learned over the years. Smiling, enthusiasm, faking it…I knew I had a bad attitude and I didn’t want it to affect the kids. Goodness knows, they have enough to deal with without my bad attitude. I would repeat my mantra as I drove to work, “I may be the only smile they see today so it better look good!” Sarcasm, apathy and boredom were on the edges of my mind, but I fought them back. When I would get home, I would cuddle with the baby, eat supper and be in bed by eight! Fighting the three foes of education was tough work! (I’m an adult, imagine how hard it must be for the kids!!!)

Finally it was here. Summer vacation had arrived! I could take turns sleeping  in until nine!  I could clean, eat, watch t.v. or read without a class schedule to tell me when I needed to switch! I could blog to my heart’s content! AWESOME! I was ready for a break.

My husband and I had booked an Alaskan cruise the week after school ended. We drove out to the coast, stopping in on friends and family on the way. It was an excellent adventure which gave us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and our ten month old baby. Jack did very well on the long drives, which made the trip easy and enjoyable. As we drove west, I started to relax, decompress really. I also started to think about the year.

I began the 2009-2010 school in February. Baby Jack was born August 29th, 2009 and my husband and I decided to split the parental leave. I returned to school when Jack was five months old. I felt like it was a sacrifice on my part, but the benefits (Dale getting some baby bonding time and us being able to share the summer) made it an acceptable sacrifice.

It was tough getting back into the groove. Anyone who has taken over a class mid-year will tell you that no matter how good the teacher who set up the class was, they aren’t you and it is not how you would do it! At first the kids were enamoured with me. Then they wanted “her” back. Then they were indifferent. My feeling was much the same.

At first I was enthused. I craved the routine. I wanted the relationships that came with a class of kids. I wanted the conflict and resolutions. Then, I wanted the cuddle time with Jack back. I wanted the diapers, the naps and the library time. After two months, I was indifferent.

WHOA! Yep, I am admitting that some apathy had set in. I started showing up to my class. I was faking that I wanted to be there. Don’t get me wrong: I did my job. I did the activities, projects and lessons. I worked with kids one on one, wrote reports, thought of new strategies to get them excited about the material. I gave out hugs and smiled. But I stopped reflecting as much on what I was doing in class. I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. In that respect, I ripped off those kids.

Spending fifteen hours in a car with my spouse, I had plenty of time to realize the mistake I had made. I’m sure if you were to ask my husband about that car ride, he would tell you that my face was red on several occasions as I walked through memories of those five months.

On the cruise I met so many interesting people. Our wait staff loved our son. They fed him when we had our hands busy with our entrees. They catered to his every whim, as did all the staff on the boat. While chatting with one deckhand, we learned that most of the cruise staff have six month contracts. Six months on a boat away from family, friends and land. He was on month three. His wife had given birth to his first child just after he left and he was excited to see the babies. They were his surrogate babies while he was away and he loved to see the different stages they went through.

Wow. What an “aha” moment for me. There I was, feeling resentful about the five months that I had missed with Jack. Going through the motions, I had robbed myself, my colleagues and my students of my best. Here was a group of people demonstrating amazing passion for their work while making a tremendous sacrifice. I hadn’t “missed” anything really: our family is better for the shared parental leave. This realization propelled me forward.

Everyday is an opportunity to become a better person and to help the people around us become better people. We have the choice to care or to be indifferent. Not only will the next school year be one of learning for my students, but it will help me learn as well. At the end of the year, those kids will know that I cared about them. BRING IT ON!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristen
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 07:57:31

    I felt many of the same things when I returned to work between Oliver and Gibson. This was especially true when dealing with more difficult days. I would have the thought “why and I spending so much time with other people’s children when I could be home with my own?” Now that my own children are in school, it makes me appreciate their teachers even more, because I know that many of them have young children and yet they are spending time with mine and enriching their lives. This whole experience of parenthood will make you a better teacher in the long run because you will know that each of those children could be yours in the classroom of another.

    Reply

    • missateaches
      Sep 03, 2010 @ 09:50:44

      I think you are right Kristen. I have so much respect for my dayhome provider and everything she does. I guess one way to look at it would be that at least I have the opportunity to learn about kids and how they develop in a hands on setting instead of having to sit at a desk doing paperwork!

      Reply

  2. Steph Jane
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 14:05:58

    I had a very similar experience to you and Kristen when I went back half-time after Claire was 1. I had that same feeling of “Why am I taking care of someone else’s kids instead of my own?” as well as the apathy you described, I can remember getting called out by Jan for doing a half-a$$ed job on my report cards, and also feeling like I never had enough energy for the kids at school and Claire at home. I definitely appreciate my kids’ teachers, but at this point I have decided to focus on my writing career and work at home instead of going back to teaching. It’s been almost three years now since I started my last Maternity Leave, and I find it harder and harder to imagine going back. I hope that you find your passion for teaching again, because you are an awesome teacher.
    Steph

    Reply

    • missateaches
      Sep 03, 2010 @ 18:06:32

      Ahh Steph, I knew you as a teacher, and I know that you were an awesome educator! As for being called out on reporting, sometimes life gets in the way and we have to prioritize. Sometimes that works out for our employer, other times, not so much. I’m so happy to hear you are writing and I can’t wait to read something of yours. I know that you are doing a great job working as a mom and creating a community up there in Fort Mac!

      Reply

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