Being a teacher means embracing constant change. Yet all too often, teachers are told when, how and why to change. In this monthly column, Mrs. Mimi takes on creating change for herself by rethinking old practices and redefining teaching on her own terms.
So June is finally here. FINALLY. Or maybe you’re feeling like it sneaked up on you in the dark and shouted, “Boo! I’m here sucker!” scaring the you-know-what out of you as you frantically tried to organize piles and deal with typical end of the year nonsense (read: paperwork). Regardless, June is here and that means so is the end.
Isn’t it strange that my life as a student and an educator translates itself into a bizarre notion of what constitutes a year? Most people think about endings in December…I think of December as the middle. Granted, we get to pause a bit and rethink routines or what have you, but when I think of endings, I think of June. June is the time for reflection and taking a deep breath. (December, on the other hand, is about holiday-fueled panic and leaving work in the dark.)
But back to this year and this particular ending. I don’t know about you, but this year kicked my had its way with
was hard. As in, “so hard that I’m not sure I’ll be the same when I come back in the fall to begin another year” hard.
Unraveling and implementing the Common Core State Standards pushed me to question everything I think about best practices. I mean, those babies are intense. Over and over again, I wondered, “Am I
this intense? How can I ensure that I am doing my job and teaching with these standards in mind and at the same time hold on to those parts of my teaching that I believe in the most? Can I see myself through these standards? How do I do this and not lose myself?”
It felt like I could never do enough. I couldn’t be in enough places at once, read enough books, write enough blog posts, call enough parents, or craft enough original units of study. With so much new-ness (and not enough-ness) this school year, I often was left feeling like I had lost my grip.
And now that we are at the end, I guess all the soul searching, self-doubt, and confusion feels like it may have been worth something. While I’m not who I was in September (a.k.a, a teacher’s January), I like to think I’m a stronger, more thoughtful version of myself. One that is steeped (we’re talking full to the brim) in the Common Core State Standards, is clearer on the practices which feel good to me and good for children, and is more conscious of the rhythms of teaching and how they effect me (and those who are forced to live with me….sorry, Mr. Mimi!) so deeply.
I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is how far I can bend and just how much I can give to my practice in the classroom. I used to feel like a human pretzel with unlimited energy and willingness to do whatever it takes. No teacher bag was too heavy for my commute home, no booklist too long for me to tackle, no project too intense for me to take on.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There is no way that that life is sustainable or even…sane. Now, let’s not get it twisted—I am not en route to Slacker-ville. I will always stay up too late, read too many children’s books, and spend an unusual amount of time thinking about work. That is who I am. But I also read PEOPLE magazine, love playing Legos with the Mini, and enjoy laying in the grass of my new big-girl yard on a sunny day. That is also who I am.
So, with this ending right around the corner, I feel like I’ve finally settled (or maybe resettled) into who I am, how intense I am about my job and just how much I can handle before snapping.
Keep your fingers crossed that I can hang on to this feeling once the new (school) year begins… Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of IT'S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
© 2013 Mrs. Mimi. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. QUIET! Teacher in Progress: Rethinking the Bitter End QUIET! Teacher in Progress: Mrs. Mimi Seeks Perspective