Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm a Survivor

Well, the end of my first semester of teaching has come. For a while, it felt like Christmas break was eternally just out of reach. But alas, I am now experiencing the bliss that is my first Christmas break as a teacher. I will echo the sentiments I've heard already, 'I'm not sure who looks forward to Christmas break more, the teachers or the students.' My first semester of teaching has been incredibly rewarding, frustrating (at times), challenging (always), and a blast! And I've picked up on a few things over this semester.

First, it's ok to demand respect. My job is not to be my students' friend, it's to make sure they leave my classroom informed young people and with a little more knowledge than they previously possessed. While I've greatly enjoyed my first semester students, they have been very chatty. I've learned that it's ok for me to wait for them to stop talking. The lesson they learn by me waiting for them is more important than whatever aspect of history I was going to teach them.

Second, teachers have the best stories! Whether it's a demerit being ripped behind my back, a student falling asleep, or just the everyday quirks of my class - all yield some of the best and most entertaining stories ever. I think the funniest conclusion was me slamming the history textbook down on the sleeping student's desk. I seriously thought I was going to have to clean up after the student because of how fair in the air the student seemed to fly! I had the hardest time keeping a straight face, but the student hasn't fallen asleep again in my class. Mission accomplished!

Third, I truly understand that teachers have one of the most difficult jobs and are vastly underappreciated. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying teachers should have multi-million dollar contracts while professional athletes barely scrape by. Most of the time when I heard from parents this semester it was negative. The one time I got an email from a parent just thanking me for what I did, it made my week. After that every time I felt discouraged, I could go back and read the email and instantly know that I truly am making a difference. Being a teacher has made me reflect on my own educational career. I am so thankful for each and every one of my teachers that invested in my education and my ultimate success in life. Lesson here for everyone else: tell a teacher how much you appreciate them, it will make their day!

Fourth, my patience has been tested to within an inch of its life. There were days I was ready to scream, but since that is usually frowned upon, I had to keep it together. My students shouldn't be able to tell when I'm having a less than perfect day, and I must hold myself together when those days come. My whistle has been sounded numerous times when I thought I was about to lose my mind. My fellow teachers have guided me through the tricky subject of classroom management. I am not even going to claim to have a grasp on this subject, but my classroom isn't total chaos, so at least I'm not failing at it!

Fifth, I love what I do! I left college slightly unsure of where my life was headed. On one hand, I considered taking the LSAT and aspiring to law school. On the other, I considered pursuing a Master's of Education to secure a high school teaching job. And on the third, I considered finding an office job until I was sure what I wanted to do. I never could've dreamt up the job I have now. I truly enjoy teaching history, and I get excited by history being made or rediscovered. I turn into a total nerd when I get to talk about the American Revolution and the sheer guts and determination our forefathers had. I love debating whether America was an experiment and whether that experiment is a success. I love stretching my students' minds to see the connections between time periods and other knowledge in their brains. I am so blessed to be where I am right now. I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of this adventure called: first year of teaching.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gettin' in the Christmas Spirit

I love the Christmas season. I love the music, the deals, the lights, the weather and bundling up, the peppermint lattes. I get very excited when Thanksgiving rolls around because that means I can officially start listening to Christmas music. **Confession time: I listened to the Nutcracker suite way back in October this year.** I know, I know, a horrible offense. I just couldn't help myself. The music of the Nutcracker ballet is some of my favorite of all time!

This year, though, I find myself becoming a little more like this green guy...

Yes, with his heart 3 sizes too small and all, I'm identifying a little more with the Grinch. Even as I admit this it pains me a little bit to say it. So I'll attempt to explain why I might classify myself as a Grinch.

First, the holiday season is so busy. Everyone has parties, functions, gifts to buy, things to gather up, plans to make, etc. At the beginning of December, I updated Google Calendar as I do every couple weeks, and I noticed something markedly different about December. Before the month even began, most days were already full. One of the reasons I love the Christmas season is because I enjoy taking it slow and just spending time with the people that are most important to me. If I'm rushing from event to event, I can't take time to stop and appreciate the people in my life. I can't say that I'll do much to fix the busy-ness this year as the calendar is already set for the most part, but I hope by reflecting on this now, I'll remember in future years to schedule time just for sitting.

Second, the constant, "I want" attitude is really bothering me this year moreso than normal. Most kids have a wish list a mile long and it grows every time they see another commercial. I don't want it sound like I'm anti-presents. I enjoy giving gifts and I'll admit, I enjoy receiving them. However, I think it's also important to take a step back sometimes and just be thankful for what I do have. That doesn't need to just be material possessions either. On Thanksgiving, as I sat around the table with my mom, brother, grandparents, and Jon, I couldn't help but feel incredibly grateful for where I am at this point in my life. I am surrounded by wonderful people whom I love and who love me, I have an absolutely fantastic job, I have great friends, and I'm healthy (if a little accident prone sometimes).

Even as I sit here lamenting how busy the season has become, I'm making my list and checking it twice. So how do I simplify Christmas for myself? I'm not entirely sure, but I do know there are a couple things I can do to remind myself why this season is important and why I love this season. One, take a night off. My nature is to want to help people and say yes to everything. I need to remind myself it's ok to take a night off, stay in, curl up with a good book and just enjoy life. Two, treasure the time I get to spend with my friends and family. Rather than think about it as just another function to attend, I should think of it as an opportunity to spend time with great people and treasure the time! Three, put extra thought into the gifts I give. Four, take advantage of opportunities to be generous.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to get back to enjoying this season and cherishing every minute of it! I think I feel my heart growing back to normal size :) just like the Grinch's!