Teacher Brain

I know that face
It’s a year older
But, still, the face
Of a child
The smile
A bit more
Confident
You were one of my favorites that year
Yes
I remember
Kind
Hard-working
Friendly
Artistic
Your face
Why could I not remember your name?
Hours later
And miles away
My mind clears
A name appears
That’s it!
Remembering
Makes me smile

Last night was meet the teacher time at school. Former students often return with their younger siblings to say hello. One stopped by my table. I was so glad to see him. We talked about the previous school year. I asked if he was taking an art class. Yes! He smiled.

Tomorrow is the first day of this school year. There will be so many faces, old and new. And though it may take a while to remember their names, connections will begin with their smiles.

Unexpected Beauty

I love Colorado! Our family has taken many vacations to this beautiful state. We are currently here with our adult children. We have been relaxing and enjoying the cooler temps and beautiful surroundings.

Today was a family hike. And it affected me in a way I had not expected.

I knew this hike would be challenging. 6.2 miles with an elevation gain of 941.6 ft., beginning at an elevation of 8,913 ft. But the thought of family time witnessing mountain scenery, wildflowers, and a waterfall was motivating. The views did not disappoint! But that was not what consumed my thoughts as we trekked up and back down this mountain trail.

No doubt, my hiking pace would be the slowest of the group. All the kids are in their twenties. And Gart is in a little better shape, stronger. This truth was quickly realized as we headed down, or should I say, up the trail.

I am at a disadvantage, I thought.

I was bringing up the rear. Keeping my own pace. Telling myself that was ok. But also falling behind. And we were just getting started. And then this thought popped into my head.

Is this how some students feel at school? Ones facing a disadvantage? Whether in ability, family support, or resources. How do they feel when they sense they are falling behind? Are they, like I was, afraid of not reaching their goal?

My family slowed down and waited for me to catch up. After a short break, I was placed in the middle of the pack. No one seemed to mind the slower pace. They encouraged me.

You can do this, mom! Remember, take smaller steps. Breathe and relax your shoulders.

And even though still afraid, I kept going. Even picked up my pace just a little. At our next stop, Gart suggested I take the lead. They would follow me. Of course, he remained close behind. Constantly saying I was doing great. Reminding me that I am strong.

I still had doubts, but my determination was growing. I wanted to reach the top of the trail and gaze at that majestic waterfall with my family.

We told the kids to go on ahead. They needed to move a little faster. We would see them at the top! It felt good to let them go ahead of us. Gave me even more reason to keep going. Even though my body hurt. It was hard to catch my breath. And it would take every drop of energy and willpower I could muster.

Gart and I continued together. I asked him to take a picture of an unusual flower for me. We walked over log bridges across the flowing creek several times. The water flowed underneath from the waterfall that would soon be in sight.

I was going to make it! I struggled not to cry. Needed to keep breathing. As we rounded the last corner, I saw our daughter, Rachel. Smiling, hands up in the air. You made it! A big hug and tears came. I felt so proud.

Our son, Robert, and his wife, Erin, had hiked above the falls. They waved and smiled. Ryan, our youngest, was sitting nearby on a rock and soon walked over. You made it!

The waterfall was mesmerizing. A roaring cascade of water flowed over the edge to the stream below. I sat and had a snack and some water. We took pictures. And then the inevitable. We had to go back down.

Yes, most of it was downhill, but my body was exhausted. Some spots required careful steps. But thanks to the continuing encouragement of my husband and some light, cooling rain showers, I made it back to the car.

I can’t believe I did it! Pretty sure I said that at least ten times.

In all my relief at completing this six-mile hike, I couldn’t shake those earlier thoughts about students who are at a disadvantage.

What if they had someone to pull them from behind to the middle of the pack? What if their confidence grew enough to take the lead? What if they fluctuated back and forth, working hard, supported, and encouraged until reaching their goal?

I guess today’s hike made me focus on the beauty of humanity over nature. Realizing the ability each of us has to make a difference in the lives of others. Grateful that today, I was on the receiving end. ❤️

There are times we all need to hear-You can do it! Don’t give up! You will not be disappointed when you look back at the journey and see how far you’ve traveled.

The Whole Story

I wish I knew the whole story. How your life began. The circumstances surrounding your birth. How your big sister played with you. What you were like as a toddler.

When we first met, you were bossy and tall for your age. But you had a big smile and beautiful long, dark hair. You loved flying high on the playground swings. I’m glad for those moments of joy in your life.

Schoolwork did not come easy. You worked so hard. No matter what we tried, letters and numbers couldn’t find their way into your memory banks. Not long-term, anyway.

You enjoyed listening to stories and spending time playing pretend with your friends. Somehow, unphased by the lack of remembering academic details.

Traveling between Mexico and Oklahoma seemed to be the pattern. You, your mother, and your older sister. That must have been stressful and scary. Not knowing how long you would stay in one place or where you belonged.

I wish I knew the whole story. Why the older you grew, the less care you seemed to receive. Understanding there must have been challenges in raising a child with disabilities. But still, you deserved to be cared for and loved.

What love there was somehow faded with the birth of a new baby. Slowly turning to neglect and abuse. My heart breaks over what I do know.

You are unable to tell me your whole story. Only bits and pieces. Maybe I shouldn’t wish to know it. One thing I do know is you will always wear the scars. Yet, you still manage to smile. You give and receive love. And just maybe, that is the whole story. ❤️

Our sweet friend, Marie. So glad she is part of our lives.

When?

Another
School day
Filled with
Laughter
Learning
Love
Shattered
By sounds
Gunshots
Impact
Screams
Cries for help
Violent deaths
Followed by
Silence-
Children
Teachers
Hiding, frightened
Training put
Into action
Training
That should never
Have been necessary
For actions
That should never
Have occurred

When will we decide enough is enough?
When will we choose love instead of hate?
When will we weep instead of arguing?

Mourn for
Innocent lives
Left lying
On the floor
Of the very place
They should have been safe

Today was our last day of school. Smiles, tears, good-byes. Ready for summer break. I drove home, exhausted. And then, I heard the news of another school shooting at an elementary school.

Listening to the reports was heartbreaking. And then there was a comment about training. The fact that students and teachers were hiding as they practiced. The same drills I have had to discuss or practice with students. It should not be this way. 💔

One Plus One

Twenty to one. Twenty-five to one. Thirty to one. No, not betting odds, teacher-student ratios. What happens when that one is changed to a two?

First-grade music class had a visitor today. My teacher friend, Mrs. Eakes. Angela, a former classroom teacher, is now an EL coach, passionate about all-things literacy and education.

Angela recently shared some articles with me about the benefit of echo songs. Particularly in helping students strengthen literacy skills. Echo is a big part of teaching music, and I was excited to incorporate the specific songs shared in the articles.

My kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classes have been singing the songs over the past few weeks. Some with motions, all a little silly. All a lot of fun! Most of the time…

Confession…even with our current curriculum and these engaging songs, sometimes I struggle.

It is challenging to simultaneously stay calm, focused, and energized. Keeping students engaged while also settling disagreements or drying tears. I know I’m not the only teacher who sometimes feels this way…outnumbered.

When Mrs. Eakes joined our class, the difference was immediate. Not only for me but also for the students. Yes, one plus one equals two. But in music class, today, one plus one equaled ten!

Teacher Appreciation Week

Holders of the Future

Schools are failing
Some would like
You to believe
Wisdom says
Otherwise
One only
Needs
To look
To listen
Hundreds of lives
Working together
In community
Not simply teachers
Teaching students
But people, both
Young and old
Connecting on
Common ground
One that seeks
To meet needs
Heal wounds
Tell stories
Solve problems-
So, what are schools?
They are not failures
But holders of the future-
Take a minute
To stop
To look
To listen
Not at the ones
Talking about
Schools
But the ones
Walking inside
Every
Single
Day

As a teacher, listening to political rhetoric can quickly become discouraging. Especially when I truly stop and think about all of the stories. And I am only one of many. So, I only hear some of the many.

I watch as students take home extra food. Listen as concerns are shared among staff. Notice when students receive much-needed services. And this is in addition to the love and care received from their teachers.

Each day there are tears of joy and sadness, screams of excitement and frustration. But isn’t that life? Don’t miss the bigger picture because of the voices attempting to drown it out.

The second poem was written for a recent school volunteer celebration. But it seemed fitting for my teacher friends as well. ❤️

Ready to Bloom

Imagine the
Blooming daffodil
Magically captured
In time-lapse
Photography
Instant joy in
Sunshine yellow
If only you could see
The results
Of your work
In this manner-
Nurturing hands
Thoughtful words
Freely planting
Seeds of confidence
Gently watering
Pulling weeds
Re-planting when
Necessary
Always shining
Your light…
So much light
Tending to
Each new stem
Each new bud
Each precious child
With love and patience
As they emerge
At their own pace
Right alongside you
Ready to bloom

Intrusion

Unwelcome thoughts interrupted my morning. In those early moments when it was unclear if I was awake or still dreaming. Images that made my heart sink.

An image of me trying to secure a class of elementary students in my storage closet. Was there enough room for everyone? Wait, there is a glass view window in the classroom door. Can I lock the closet door from the inside?

Next, my daughter is in a similar scene. Except hers is a high school special education classroom.

I know why these thoughts appeared today. 

A result of the news yesterday. 

Another school shooting…

There have been so many in our country, it is impossible to keep track. That statement makes me sad. And while I know I cannot live in that sadness, it must be acknowledged.

I choose not to live my life in the what if’s. Yet, as an educator, these stories are troubling. As a spouse and parent of educators, they are personal. For all of us, they are heartbreaking.

I do not write to offer a solution. Only to express my heart. The heart of a teacher who loves her students and would do anything to protect them. A teacher, like many others, who are tired of the ugly truths that bring these intrusive thoughts.

I am thankful for all the smiling faces that greeted me as they entered our beautiful school this morning. Those smiles helped push the sadness away.  

Run Away

Bath towel
Pillowcase
Bedsheet
Any material will do
A giant eagle
Flying free
Surveying
The yard
Before perching
On the porch
Superman
Wearing
His cape
Ready
To swoop in
And save the day
Or maybe
A friendly ghost
Playing
A game of
Hide-n-seek
Shaking with
Silly giggles
Any material will do
When paired with
The wild imagination
Each child holds
Once they feel free
To let it run away

Why is it our imaginations seem to shrink as we get older? As a child, I could always see objects in the clouds. It still happens sometimes, but I often second-guess myself.

Dress-up clothes, imaginary friends, playing pretend. Crucial elements of childhood. Sadly, it is not so simple these days. I was reminded of this while talking to a crying student this morning.

Oh, to be able to help them feel safe. Safe enough to let imaginations run wild!

The Best Medicine

There are few sounds sweeter than pure, honest laughter. The kind that, once started, is hard to stop. I heard this precious echo twice in my classroom today and welcomed it with open arms.

The first experience was with fourth-grade boys. Our lesson today was about the Brass family of instruments. After a brief discussion of the word family and its relationship to musical instruments, we watched a short video showing the trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba.

Students saw both teens and professional musicians playing each of these instruments. Plus, some shenanigans about unwinding the tubing of the instruments. Here’s where the laughter started. In this video, the tuba was referred to as the “Big Daddy” of the Brass section.

At first, there were just a few giggles. The next thing I knew, one friend could not contain his laughter. It was that innocent kind of laughter, uncontrolled and contagious. We all had a good laugh.

The next incident was in second grade. We were singing a song about lunchboxes. There was a measure of rest where students were supposed to say what they hoped their mom would put in their lunch box.

I decided to go around the room and have them each name their item. There were apples, cookies, milk, grapes, bananas. And then someone smiled and said Chick-fil-A! I responded, “Oh my goodness! Now I am going to be thinking about Chick-fil-A all day! Thank you very much!”

I went on and on…and the laughter began. Guess what the next lunch box suggestion was? Starbucks! I’m thinking they had devised a plan. 😉

Reflecting on the day, I did not realize how desperately I needed to hear, feel, and experience laughter. I’m grateful for those sweet voices able to let it freely flow. It is the best medicine, after all.

An Unfamiliar Smile

The strangest thing happened on my way home from school yesterday. I had not driven far and was stopped at a red light. The soundtrack to “Hamilton” was blaring on my radio, and the sun was shining!

A quick glance to my right, and I noticed someone waving. The car window was rolled down, the driver smiling. His eyes looked familiar, but it took a few seconds to recognize him.

This was someone I see at work every day. But he is new to our school this year, and that meant I had never actually seen his entire face. Or, if I had, it was only for a few brief seconds.

Wow! I know we are all feeling the changes in how we connect during this time of a global pandemic. We have to work even harder at getting to know new people. Wearing masks, though necessary, makes it more difficult to speak, hear, and recognize others. And not being able to just run up and hug everyone I see…well, that is another thing altogether.

This experience was a real punch. Here I sat, realizing that this was the first time I had seen this guy’s entire face! We have been in school for over two months!

I waved and then rolled down my car window. We were both smiling. I said, “Man, it is good to actually see your smile!” He laughed and said something about wearing masks all the time. I nodded. We both drove our separate ways.

Did I mention we were both smiling?

It was like finding two puzzle pieces that fit together. That unfamiliar smile perfectly matched those familiar eyes.