Fifteen Years and Counting

Yesterday marked the fifteen year anniversary of my high school graduation. As I sit here in my own classroom, now devoid of students awaiting Saturday’s graduation festivities, I realize two things:

  1. I’m officially old. Not Jurassic Park old (though it did come out when I was in eighth grade), but older than I’ve ever been before.
  2. I am so much better now than I could have imagined.

So it is with a nostalgic heart and a smile that I dedicate this, an account of my growth since I marched into that iconic theater in my purple gown so many years ago.

I am real.
Bigger than I was in high school, I would love to be somewhere between the size I was then and the size I am now. What matters the most, however, is that I am not totally defined by looking the way I think I should look. I am not skipping meals or eating like a sparrow to keep someone else happy. I am not convinced I am fat while my stomach is smaller than I ever thought it was. I am a real woman. Curvy, bumpy, and natural. And I’m almost ok with that.

I am intelligent.
In high school, I thought intelligence was defined by the classes I took and what my grades were. Now, more than a decade later, it is not the degree I hold that determines my intelligence; truth be told, I have learned far more from my life experiences than I did in high school and college combined. I’m still a work in progress, but the world around me makes more sense. And it scares the hell out of me. No longer trapped in the microcosm of high school, I know what lurks in the shadows. And in the sunlight. I know more than I ever thought needed to be learned.

I am valuable.
My worth goes far beyond what I could have understood fifteen years ago. My paychecks may never be grandiose, but there are aspects of my world that would cease to exist if I wasn’t there to take care of them. No one can ever be me. They may be good, or important, or often even more competent than me, but they will never be me.

I am genuine.
High school was a blur of trying to be liked and trying to belong. Things were said or left unsaid for the benefit of my peers. Now, I am what you see. Though I still often second guess myself, I am who I am. I will not lie or deceive to hide from the truth. Even if it is not a truth you want to hear. Or that I want to hear. Life if better when lived up front.

I am a fighter.
High school was a time of conformity. Now, I fight for the things that are important. I fight for my students, for they deserve more than they are sometimes given. They also deserve to be taught to fight for themselves, to prove their worth, and to value the knowledge that is given to them. I fight for my children because they are precious to me. They deserve the world, but they also must value it. I will fight for them until my last breath.

I am a mother.
This is, by far, the most important. My world was rocked when Maddie was born. She and her sisters are my greatest accomplishment. My days are lived for them. They are the reason that I know my worth. It is impossible to feel the love they give me and not feel both blessed and humbled. And so very important.

I am so much more now than I ever was then, but I still remember where I came from.

Here’s to the class of ’99. May we be strong, may we be wise, and may we leave this world a far better place than we found it.


Twas the Night Before Finals

‘Twas the night before finals; I was stuck at my table.
not a student was studying, even though they were able.
My printer was buzzing, there’s no ink to spare,
for I’ve waited too long and am pulling my hair.

My exam must be edited, for typos abound,
and my kids have been threatened: If they make a sound…
This Mama is tired, there never is rest,
and the bed will be calling if I just finish this test.

The scantrons are placed on the desk in my room.
I’m daydreaming of students whose minds are in bloom.
The pencils are sharpened, and all is in place,
If now this one teacher could just finish this race.

At the end of each school year, I must admit,
I’m filled with the urge to throw hands up and quit.
Just a few days more patience and dealing with creatures.
I can do this, I won’t scream- For I am the teacher!

Big Fish/Small Pond: Student Entitlement

Eleven years in, there are still some things that just floor me. Looking at the general population of students at the small school where I teach, from the bottom of my heart, I know that they are good humans. They will grow and mature, become vital members of our community, and someday raise families of their own. There are some, however small that minority, who are so assured of their status in this world.

They make me cringe.

My filter, which is always worn thin by this point in the school years, has great difficulty not reminding them of who they are and where they are (and sometimes where they come from). I manage to refrain.

When, oh when, did we- a civilized group of human beings- start raising a group of children who are so lost in their own expectations of entitlement that they forget to see the value of work and sacrifice, or even determination?

Why do they assume that they get to roam the halls just because they feel like it? In groups of seven or eight? For thirty minutes at a time?

Why do they get to use the bathroom in another building just because they don’t “like” the one only a few feet away from my classroom door? When did their trips start involving being gone for twenty minutes or more, and what do they think they need to do with a cell phone while they are there? When did the expectation become that teachers are to be ok with this? Teachers, who are lucky to get a two minute bathroom break, are expected to sacrifice the content and context of a lesson so that students can take good care of their colon and their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snap Chat account.

When did it become an assumption that deadlines don’t matter? Work can be turned in at random, partially completed, and we are expected to simply put a check on it, log in a perfect score, and return it without complaint.

Who made the rule that only certain students need to monopolize classroom discussions, as if their peers have nothing else to say? Or that they should determine the topic of said discussions? And the duration, volume, and intensity?

Why is it assumed that I will award extra credit for being a good student, or following the rules, or being a human being?

Most importantly, what will become of these individuals who suffer from big fish/small pond syndrome when we are no longer around to support their delusions?