Tag Archives: teaching

Saying Goodbye

11 Jun

It used to happen every year.  We would gather on the sidewalk and wave as the children began their last bus ride home for the year.  Then we would meander to our classrooms, all looking a little bit lost, gathering up loose papers and little bits of broken pencils left under the coat hooks.  Thank goodness for our school counselor’s yearly ritual of singing “schooooool’s out for summer” over the loud speaker.  It was just the bit of levity I think we all needed to help us navigate that awkward place between joy and sorrow, relief and nostalgia.

As an elementary teacher, you spend 9 months entrenched in the academic and social lives of your students.  You struggle together.  You succeed together.  You form a bond that will never again exist.  When you really think about it, the exact combination of students and teachers will never share the same room again.  And no matter how welcome that fact might make the impending break, there’s a sadness about it, too.

I’ve been out of the public school classroom for 5 school years, now.  From my living room window, I’ve watched the first bus of the year pick up excited students carrying brand new backpacks and I’ve watched the last bus of the year bring home jubilant children.  And because I get to use my teaching chops workshopping piano solos and providing academic tutoring to private students, I haven’t found myself missing the classroom.  It’s the best of both worlds, staying at home and teaching.

And then this year, as my tutoring student handed me a thank you card, I fought back tears as I tried to find the words to tell him how proud I was of all his work; of how much I enjoyed working with him.  I was instantly transported back to those afternoons, standing in the center of an empty classroom, hoping the students I just sent into their summer knew how loved they were.

I realize now that I want more of that.  I don’t think I’ll find myself back in the public school classroom again.  But I’d like to take my academic tutoring from an occasional favor for friends of friends into something more.  Now I just have to figure out what.


27 Jun

3am Feed baby.  Pee.  Go back to sleep.

5am Feed baby.  Negotiate with cat for space on the bed.  Go back to sleep.

7am Pretend to be sound asleep when hubs gets up with the now completely awake baby.

7:30am Nurse Baby.  Beg husband to hang around for just a few more minutes so I can shower.  Put in headband for no-heat curls.

8am Breakfast.  Pop Tarts.  Untoasted.  Since there are two in a sleeve, I count it as one serving.

8:30am Preschooler awakens and immediately grabs toys for baby.  A good moment.  I make a note to soak it in.

9am Fruity cereal for the preschooler and smashed bananas for the baby.  I take my antidepressant and anti anxiety meds with a swig of the preschooler’s leftover juice.

9:30am Take out headband, look in mirror.  No-heat FAIL.  Pin hair to head in makeshift bun while the preschool plays with makeup and the baby chews on curlers.

10:30am How is it already 10:30?!  We were supposed to leave 20 minutes ago!  Speed-nurse baby and rush out the door.

11:15am Tutoring.  Baby screams her head off when I pass her off.  And yet, I connect with my student and think of how far she’s come.

12:15pm Piano Lesson.  Ignore anxiety as student’s mom consoles preschooler who has hit her head.  Baby falls asleep in carrier while I prepare my oldest student for Sunday’s recital.  We laugh about mistakes and at musical geek jokes.  Think how well everything is going.

1pm Back to Mom’s house to check on her cat.  Nurse baby while playing with miniature Cars figurines.  Why do they even make toys this small?  And why do children gravitate to them?  Attempt to set alarm.  Fail.  Run out the door as it beeps and counts down.  Cross fingers the cops don’t appear.

2pm Arrive at mall for lunch.  Without a stroller.  Carry baby, diaper bag, and portable potty seat like a pack animal.  Make a mental note for when my back is strained tomorrow.

2:30pm Lunch in the food court.  Burger King.  Fellow mall rats smile as they watch me attempt to keep my chicken sandwich out of the baby’s elasto-arm grasp.  Share fries with preschooler.  Sigh with happiness.

3:00pm Drive home while baby screams.  For 35 minutes.  For no apparent reason.  Jingle car keys and play “What Does A Monkey Driving a Tow Truck Sound Like?” with preschooler in an attempt to keep baby awake for the last 3 minutes of the ride.  This nap WILL happen at home.

3:30pm Preschooler in room for rest.  Nurse and nap baby.  Call Mom back.  Crash on couch.

3:45pm Baby cries.  Snuggle baby.  Check on preschooler.  Remove Barbie shoe from child’s mouth.  Again with the small toys.

4:00pm Retrieve Barbie car for preschooler.  Baby cries.  Snuggle baby back to sleep.

4:30pm Relieve preschooler from resting.  Say no to television but yes to computer game, which toddler uses to watch an episode of her favorite show anyway.  Sigh inwardly and move on.

5pm Nurse cranky baby.  Carry cranky baby around while attempting to make spaghetti dinner, put in a white load of laundry, prep cloth diapers for the wash, and discipline preschooler who is now mad at the computer.

5:30pm Dinner.  Without the guest who promised to come.  Make excuses to preschooler throughout dinner.  Try not to be mad.

6:30pm Bath.  Ask preschooler what she wants to play with.  “Baby Sister,” is her reply.  Smile.

6:45pm Beg preschooler to be helpful since Mommy is on her own tonight for bedtime.  Leave her “brushing” her teeth to dress the baby.

7pm Husband walks upstairs.  Divide and conquer.  Cuddle notatalltiredseemommyIcanholdmyeyesopen baby to sleep.

7:30pm Clean kitchen.  Switch laundry.  Apologize to husband for the mess.

8pm Fold laundry.  Notice this is the most relaxing thing I’ve done all day.

8:30pm Ignore second load of laundry beeping in the dryer.  Sit down with computer and decompress.

9pm Lie in bed.  Stare at ceiling.  Attempt to sleep.

10pm Nurse baby.

12am Start all over again.

In the Zone

19 Feb

I went back to work a few weeks ago.  It terrified me and I questioned the decision daily but ultimately jumped back into hosting piano lessons in my home and commuting with both kids 45 minutes north once a week to tutor.

To make it all happen, I drive the girls up to my mom’s house while I teach in her town.  Then all three of us stay the night with my parents and drive home in the morning.  My mom drives her car down and helps out here, prepping the house for piano lessons, babysitting the kids while I teach (along with my amazing neighborhood babysitter), and then helping with dinner and bath time before heading home.  Hubs is responsible for picking up the house the night we are gone so it’s presentable to students and their parents.  And we all get a little help from the frozen entree aisle in the grocery store.  It’s stressful and exhausting.  It means I have to carve out time each week to lesson plan, usually while wearing the baby and tossing snacks at the toddler.

But it’s worth it.

My house is guaranteed to get a fresh, clean start one day each week.  My open floor plan means that students and parents can see every room on the first floor from my front door.  No hiding sinks full of dishes or forgetting to pick the toddler underwear up from the living room floor.  The rest of the week, it looks like a catastrophic Babies ‘R’ Us explosion has ransacked the house.  But on lesson day?  We pass for clean(ish).

And me?  Those two days I am forced to dry my hair, put on makeup, and find some pants that fit from a drawer other than the one housing all my pajamas. I feel pretty on those days.  I think it’s just as important to let go of the expectation that I need to get dressed (or shower) every day.  I have a newborn, for crying out loud.  But I still need days to take care of myself – to feel like how I look matters.

But the best part is how the lessons make me feel.  Once my student walks in and hands me their lesson notebook, I go into the zone.  I am a great teacher.  Responsive to student strengths and weaknesses, motivating, kind, funny.  My enthusiasm rubs off on the kids and the energy we share is addictive.  There’s nothing quite like the high of hearing a student work on a piece for weeks only to come in one lesson and nail it, their face glowing with pride.  Two days a week, I get to share my love of math and music.  I get to build self-esteem in my students.  I get to relax and have fun.  Because when I teach, I feel more like myself than any other time.

It’s a part of my soul – and I’m committed to making it a priority.  Everyone should have something that makes them feel “in the zone.”  What’s yours?

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