Ninth Year

Think of a time when you felt safe, felt grounded, and felt happy.

Imagine that place.

Can you bring your olfactory sense back to the location? Can you see what it looks like before you? Perhaps you see it and walk within that realm when you dream. Or maybe it reappears every now and then when something strikes a memory chord in your brain.

I can still smell and feel parts of the interior walls of my elementary school. The smell of glue, the wet pavement outside on the playground, and the crisp air after snow has fallen and stillness unfolds.  These smells and the combined shine of the tile in the main hallway are emblazoned upon my memory. I can almost feel the painted brick wall on the outside of the gymnasium. If I close my eyes I can see the hallowed entryway of the leaded windows in the circular library with slivers of light darting across the gray carpeted floor. That smell of the books, dust, and a sense of comfort intertwined with one another can bring me back in an instant.

Walking into my school building four days ago, for the beginning of a new school year, I felt a rise of positive anticipation bubble up within me. There is something magical about watching all of the hopeful children of varying ages walk towards their next school year with fervent glee and nerves.

The twenty six individuals that entered our classroom on Tuesday all carried with them a sense of expectation, a sense of wonder, and an overwhelming sense of jitters.

Their day started off with a gift bag that was stapled together and laid upon their desks, with what they did not know was a plethora of supplies buried within each bag. A mentor colleague of mine taught me about this, “mystery bag,” game as a welcoming first day activity. Each year I have carried on the tradition with a new class.

As the day progressed the student’s nerves eased and my heart melted. I love watching students begin to unfold, ever so slowly they uncurl a tiny layer of themselves, their level of trust builds as they explore the beginning of friendship and community. The sense of innocence in their questioning and steadfast belief in, “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” is truly everything that adults strive to go back towards in time.

As an educator it is part of my job to teach about compassion, kindness, patience, and above all: love.  There is no curriculum that can encompass masterful lessons for these essential skills we need in life. It is merely a lesson in every interaction I have with a child, every question I answer, and the laughs that we share. I focus on sharing these ideals through the stories I select for students. They experience, read, and listen to these works of art every day. Children intrinsically desire to show kindness towards one another and I build upon this instinct to create a unique structure every year with a new community of people.

Going into this ninth year I felt a shift in myself as an educator. I realized my level of gratitude had been raised in the last few months. I felt grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for literature and life long learning every day with a new bundle of children. I felt hopeful about what my role could bring to the table in this year of growth for these students. I also felt a rise for my love of humanity, in which I dwell within as I walked through the doors, and down the halls, on the beginning of my ninth year.

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TIHS kind of day (use a mirror)

For lack of a more interesting beginning: I’m exhausted. 

     Over the last 3.5 months I have been rehearsing for a Christmas musical a friend wrote, working full time, working out 6 days a week, stressing about family, worrying about health, planning, driving, organizing, talking, singing, practicing, and walking that balance beam we call life.

Sometimes I just want to throw all the pieces up into the air and scream while I watch them all fall back down and turn into glittery confetti…if only.  The current positives that are milling around in my mind proceed as follows:

  1. I am three days away from winter break from teaching. You know all those crazy memes of teachers running for the doors screaming? That’s me right now. I’m done. I’ve had it with attitudes, misspellings, sighing, requests x 27 and then some, repeating myself, filing paper work, making copies, making phone calls, writing emails, responding to emails, giving band aids, mending wounds both physical and emotional, mediating, locking and unlocking doors, searching for items, listening to demands, entering grades, having paint all over my hands, being sneezed on, being coughed on and glared at when I ask them to cover their mouth, wiping down tables, reminding for courtesy and the amount of general lack of gratitude. My bucket is not filled at work right now people I need recoup time.
  2. I wrapped the Christmas show and made new friends. I was grateful for another musical experience that pushed me as an individual, but I have to admit it was hard. It was challenging for me to force myself to drive across town the last week for rehearsals. It was not that I did not want to be there or follow through, it’s just that I am emotionally drained.
  3. My body tells me when it has had enough, and I generally listen. Like tonight when I stepped out of the car for dance class and my foot cramped and hurt immensely, I stopped and thought, “I think that’s a sign that you need to go home Rachel.” So I listened, and I did.
  4. Small glimmers of hope with my sister’s recent PET scan were also dashed and then thrown against more frustrating new growths in an already ravaged body, which made me want to yell into the wind: FUCK YOU CANCER. I should have been a scientist.
  5. I watched part of my birthday present from my sweet guy tonight, “Cinderella,” helped me lose myself in the fairy tale.
  6. I have a fluffy quilt, a couple pillows, and a bed to sleep in after writing.
  7. I had yummy home made pasta, and chocolate to wash it all down with.
  8. I realized after this last birthday that I could feel an emotional shift of ,”not caring,” about what people think of me slowly slipping away. See the meme below for my current feelings.
  9. I have a wonderful set of friends, family, and humans that I love and who love me. ❤ Case in point, my bff, Resa.Resa's bday party 2015
  10. I saw an amazing meme that sums me up.  That is my life update for this evening.  I’m going to dream land and will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Enjoy the meme and one of my favorite Hollywood legends, The Norma Jean, aka, Marilyn Monroe. ❤ (PS I don’t know who created or posted the original meme below, I don’t own it, nor do I intend to pass it off as something I created. Rather, I appreciate it and am sharing it. Thank you.)Marilyn quote meme

Glimpses

Over the last few days I caught a few glimpses of all sides of the spectrum when it comes to humanity. The ups and the downs. Much like the ebb and flow of the tide.

Here are some of my glimpses…

While driving to work I saw this man walking his small Shih Tzu dog. I thought, “Oh that’s a sweet moment first thing in the morning, I miss our dog…,” and then as suddenly as the thought came it shifted.  I saw the man yank the leash towards him and yell at the dog, who startled began to run away. I almost slammed on my breaks and turned the car around. I had two thoughts.

One: That is not your pet Rachel and who knows the circumstance.

Two: You’re late to work and would it really be helpful or hinder yourself to question his decision?! I still do not feel splendid about the fact that I kept driving. That’s the truth of the matter though.

Today, a patient elderly couple were purchasing their medication at the drug store. I, standing in line with my sunglasses on peered at the husband as he sauntered over to a display rack of calendars. He smiled and pointed at one for himself. His wife walked over about one minute later and said, “Alright…” while folding her receipt neatly into her wallet. The husband said, “Wait,” and ever so gently pulled her shoulders towards the calendar in front of him. “Look,” he whispered, and then proceeded to read the title of the themed calendar aloud, “Senior Moments…” and then pointed to the photograph on the cover. He chuckled, she then laughed aloud and shook her head, which was followed with a rub on his arm. When I moved up in line I looked back at the calendar. Do you know what was on the cover? A photograph of the back of two elderly individuals, clothed, with one person’s hand on the buttocks of the other, pinching it.  Let the laughs ensue… you’re welcome. Needless to say the couple kept chuckling all the way towards the door.

My best friend has been out of town for a while.  I took care of her baby cat while she was away. Ok, he is not technically a baby, but you get the gist of my idea here. Every day, faithfully we would have an hour together around 5pm. Upon entry on my last visit, said kitty, promptly ran over to the door and declared fervently, “Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”  Then he scurried over to his food bowl and I swear, he pointed.  He was probably trying to say, “You did not give me enough food!! Do you see this bowl? I moved it a foot away searching for any left overs! THAT’S how hungry I was!”  He paced around until I refilled the bowl, then settled into happy munch and nom nom time. Later while I graded papers on the couch he sat at the opposite end.  He stopped mid-thigh clean, looked at me square in the eyes and nodded. I promise you he did. He must be a genius.  If only cats had opposable thumbs, they would rule the world I tell you!

Lastly, while reading responses sent through google docs by my students with the prompt, “Write me a letter about yourself, tell me a joke, explain something about yourself to me through writing.”  I came upon a letter to the teacher, me, that the child had written that made me laugh aloud, during a meeting.  Said child wrote, “Dear Mrs. ___, I would just like to say that you are a wonderful teacher. Thank you for answering my questions, sometimes I have a lot of them, but can you blame me?  Sometimes I get frustrated and want to just burst, you have helped me with this. Thank you.” Why, you are welcome dear one.

I leave you with this dear world, smile more, laugh with others, and always believe that there are better moments coming your way.

Sparkle on.

pics of cartier and I

Cute Opinions

Opinions

The definition for the word, opinion, according to my dictionary of choice reads as follows: 1. Considering a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. Entirely probable: Or, a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

Read and Pronounced in the following languages as:

Latin: Opinio

Spanish: pienso que, (to my mind…)

The word in French: “à mon avis” (in my opinion…)

Hebrew: דעה

Italian: opinione

Opinions.  What is it about this word that weighs so heavy on us as human beings?  It seems that anyone and everyone has one, about every subject; even when they may or may not have any knowledge or authority on a particular topic that they project an opinion about.

I think some of my favorite opinions I have received in person have been about my career.

When I respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?”

I politely share, “I am an elementary educator. I teach multiple subjects at the fourth grade level.”

A few opinionated responses can be rounded up into one nice, clean, fresh labeled response: That’s cute.

Here’s my thoughtfully contained responsive dialogue that runs through my head: It’s cute that I teach classroom aged children for a living? Ok wait, are the students cute? Are you referring or meaning that I am cute? Or is what I do with my masters degree….cute? I’d just like to clarify what all that really means.

Here are my thoughtful reflections in no particular order:

I am an adult. I am not cute. I am many things, included but not limited to: intelligent, thoughtful, caring, qualified, creative, attractive, humorous, and talented. I’m not cute.

Children circa age nine to ten years of age have cute moments in time which can correlate to the equivalent of, “cuteness,” in a what our society deems appropriate.  Again with the opinions though…?  However, please do not diminish the fact that children are highly outspoken, clever, and quick witted human beings all at the same time as being, cute.

Is a higher education degree cute? Is spending 365 days pursuing a masters degree in a field of work reduced to the equivalent of being cute? Is being paid $40-$50,000 less than other masters of their field in our society really cute? Is this where the issue in value of education really lies?  It all boils down to the fact that people think it is…gulp…cute to educate?

Why is it that we have opinions about things that perhaps we have never, ever experienced? To quote Harper Lee’s wonderful novel and character Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  These words struck a chord with me at age fifteen and they still do today. They are so much more applicable to what I am referring to now at age thirty one than what they were when I first read them in school.

Why is it that we all seem to have an opinion about what other people do with their lives, their relationships, their beliefs, and their families? Who am I to comment on what someone else does with their time, let alone, their body?  It absolutely astounds me that in our society we are still going round and around the mulberry bush regarding so many topics. This feels like an age old argument.  This phrase just came to mind, “Only time will tell,” this seems rather odd. Are we not at the point when, “TIME SHOULD TELL,” already?

My little experiences with responses to my line of work, which mind you are merely one facet of who I am as an individual, are very minuscule in the grand scheme of things. There are a thousand and one little pieces that make up my daily thoughts and choices in life. I feel so lucky to be granted this life in which I have choices and options. Although, that should be saved as an entirely different rantingly thoughtful blog.  Honestly though, I think the moral of my thoughts here today friends is this: think before you speak.

Think and consider the following:

Is what I am about to say nice?

Is it thoughtful, is it something that I am sharing in order to inspire, create, or empower?

Is this the right audience to share this comment with? Or is it meant for another purpose?

Does this opinion of mine really demonstrate the value of the words I am about to speak? If not, perhaps I should rethink my statement before it flies out of my mouth.

In my humble opinion life is about uplifting others up, showing and caring enough to give respect and above all empower each other to be our best selves on this earth.

I have been actively working on opening my eyes, seeking out truths, and sharing my wisdom.  Spring is a wonderful opportunity to turn over a new leaf, no pun intended.

Sparkle on friends.

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