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Sleepless in Calgary

It’s 4:33 am. I’ve been up for about one hour; I can’t sleep. Yesterday I couldn’t sleep either. So, instead of lying in bed trying to count sheep I decided to do some work.

We have three teacher days to get ready before the children arrive. Are there other professionals that have three days to set up their workspace, on their own, so that on the fourth day they are prepared to greet their clients?? Do any of them have to do this year after year? No need to answer.

Yesterday was my first day back at school. We spent the morning in a staff meeting, and for half the afternoon my grade level group sorted the classroom materials we ordered at the end of June. I couldn’t remember why we ordered some of the materials that were on our list and right now I can’t think of a single use for anything in my room. I’m drawing a blank and the kids arrive in two days. Every year I get numb during the first few days back in the building and then I’m off and running. This year I haven’t had time to ease into a new school year; I was with my family helping my second child move into her first year of college in Boston. My husband and oldest daughter are still there while I’m home trying to sort out the pieces and get ready to greet a new group of students.

I try to remain calm as I go through all the beginning-of-the-year details I must attend to:

–setting up a library area
–seating – what arrangements do I want?
–my teacher space so that I don’t spread out all over the room
–bulletin boards – where and for what?
–meeting area
–where to put the materials my students will use
–what to store and what to display
–routines and procedures
–remembering to take mind breaks.

I could go on and on; there are so many things to consider before the students arrive and as the year goes on. But, I am reminded to keep my focus on my goal – to put the children at the center of everything I do. One of the most important things I will do during the first couple of days is to begin the process of establishing positive relationships with each of my students. As I create my classroom space and design my lessons for the first few days I want my students to understand what’s important in our classroom. The layout of the room and the choices they have now will give them a glimpse into the kinds of classroom we can create this year; the possibilities are endless.

It’s true that writing allows us to discover what we know and to work out problems we may be experiencing. As I write these words, I am starting to get excited. My motto for this year will be: Our classroom is a place where we enjoy learning about the world and ourselves. Now, I think I’m ready.

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And the Countdown Begins

In less than two weeks I’ll be starting another school year in a new well-lit classroom with a new group of students. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m ready.

I’m ready to focus on my students and maintain that focus throughout the year. I am ready to stay calm and not just during the easy times. I have always marvelled at how during summer vacation I am less agitated and more relaxed. Housekeeping chores seem to get done with relative ease and I read a ton of books. I try to sustain that feeling by remembering the sights and sounds of summer. I’m always confident that I can do it just by “remembering”. I’m able to “remember” for a short while and then by the end of the first month of school, it’s gone. It’s a gradual leaving and before I know it I’ve developed amnesia all over again. Of course, I know that the carefree attitudes and practices of summer are difficult to sustain during the school year. Yet, I am always hopeful that I will have meditated long enough on this so that this time it will stick.

This school year I’m determined to stay at peace with myself and others, family included, by taking lots of deep breaths before lunging forward blindly. Simple technique but it does work. We always talk to our students about controlling their impulsive behaviors but we rarely take that advice ourselves. Because I know it works for me – I’ve had several opportunities to prove this theory myself – I am going to practice it more often this year. I know it won’t be perfect but I know it will help when things go haywire in the classroom or when relationships with colleagues are on edge. When I’ve practiced deep breathing and/or counting to ten before speaking or acting I’m amazed that whatever had been driving me crazy a short while earlier is no longer that important. And, then there are no regrets!

I wish everybody a happy, restful, and exciting start to the school year. Let’s keep it that way.

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Growing Up and Leaving Home

My second child is going off to college this month. When my oldest left, four years ago, I couldn’t drop her off because I was starting a new job. This time around I am going but I can’t help her move in because I start to work three days earlier this year. Just the time I would need to help her settle in. I will have to fly back to Calgary from Boston with my son; my husband will stay behind until she is settled in. I’m hoping I don’t cry all the way home. My son is going to be sad, too. He doesn’t need a blubbering mom to worry about.

I thought this time around it would be easier to let my child go. I thought that having gone through this rite of passage once before would make things easier. But, I was wrong. Every time I think of some plan we have for the fall I immediately think of my second born and as quickly remember that she won’t be around. I get so sad that I have to work hard to pull myself back to the present. It’s not helping that the weather is so dreary; it hasn’t stopped raining in three days and we haven’t seen the sun for that long either.

I know my daughter will do well. She will be happy. She will be safe. She will go out into the world and do great things. I have no doubt about that but I’m selfish. i want her close to me; I want all my children close to me. And, then I remember Kahlil Gibran’s words and it gives me courage:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Growing up is hard.