For the First Time

We are in our fourth week of school-during a pandemic, attempting to social distance, everyone wearing masks, etc. School, unlike anything we have experienced before.

Today, during my fifth-grade class, I had this sudden urge to see their faces. At the end of music class, I reminded them about the importance of wearing masks. Then I told them I missed seeing their faces, and we would be taking a quick mask break.

I explained that we would take our masks off, then I would count down from five to zero, and we would put them back on.

Those five seconds felt like walking out into the sunshine. Smiles everywhere! Then I heard a student shout, “Mrs. Morris!” As if he had just recognized me!

As we put our masks back on, I started to tear up. “You look like you’re about to cry,” another student said. “I am,” I admitted. “And now my glasses are fogging up! How am I supposed to read you guys a book?”

We all laughed. I choked back my tears and made it through a few pages before it was time to go.

Wow! Four weeks in and today, it feels like we saw each other for the first time. I had forgotten the power of a smile. And multiplied by twenty, well, there is nothing quite like it.

This one, spur-of-the-minute decision changed the trajectory of my whole day. Yes, the masks were still there. But for a few seconds in each class, I saw sweet faces. And those sweet faces have no idea how much they helped this struggling teacher. ❤

Kids Grow Up

I wrote this poem several months ago after a conversation with my oldest. This seems like the perfect time for sharing.

Parenting is a lifelong adventure. And though responsibilities change as time passes, some things never change. Like that struggle between worry and release.

The temptation to hold on too tight is strong. And even after successfully letting go, certain events bring me right back into the battle.

Currently, it is a concern for their safety as public school teachers and a working college student during this pandemic. They are all adults. They know how to take care of themselves. But I will always be their mom. ❤

No Longer a Kid

How are you today?
A simple text
Sent to my child
Nothing urgent
Or momentous
Mom checking in

My eyes well up
With tears before
The swoosh sound
Of the sending text
Has even faded
What? Why now?

A flood of memories
Instantly fills my mind
A million questions
Where did the years go?
Did I do enough to
Prepare you for life?

The phone rings
Jolting me back
To the present
Tears turn to smiles
Questions fade away
The world is okay

Hey Mom, thought
I’d call and talk
Instead of just texting

And so it goes when
You are the parent
Of adult children
A simple thought
Becomes a rapid
Onslaught of emotions

A myriad of questions
And concerns
Instantly erased by
The sound of a voice-
My kid who is
No longer a kid

Challenging Times

Planning like
Never before
Worried about safety
Worried about health
For our students
And ourselves
So much at stake
Far beyond academics
Far beyond testing
The emotional health
Of our children
Of our families
Of all of us
So many needs
To be met
Too many needs
To be met
By only a few
But we are not a few
We are many
We are educators
Waiting patiently
For difficult answers
To impossible questions
And no matter what
Others may say
We will shine-Our
Students will shine
With kindness, passion
And innovation as we
Face our fears during
These challenging times

No Reason

I notice you smiling
And ask why
Oh, no reason, you reply
Your answer doesn’t satisfy
But asking again
Might seem a little pushy
So, I simply keep watching

I see your smile fade
And ask why
Oh, no reason, you reply
Your answer doesn’t satisfy
This time I push
Ever so gently
And ask once again

Are you ok
I smile and say
Waiting until you
Share the reason
Behind the expression
Only then do I see
Your smile return

Then, I continue
Watching you smile
So as not to miss
Another moment
When you answer
No reason-but mean
Exactly the opposite

From Me to You by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Question?

Question of the week-
Which is harder
Only seeing faces
On a screen
Or seeing faces
In-person, yet
From a distance?

The computer screen
Filled with little faces
Smiling, waving, singing
An adventure
Controlled chaos
No group hugs
Yet, welcome connection

The short visits
In-person, tho
Physically distant
No pats on the shoulder
Yet, beautiful smiles
Kindly delivering
Much-needed messages

Both experiences
Bring a rush
Of emotions
Tears, happy and sad
Despite attempts to
Swallow the lumps
In my throat

Maybe it’s not
A question of difficulty
Instead, a reminder
Both complex
And beautiful
Of how desperately
We need each other
Up On the Roof by Carole King/Gerry Goffin
"And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two…"

One Simple Conversation

I recently ran into our youngest son’s fourth-grade teacher. I walked over to say hi and gave her a big hug. Immediately, I was overcome with emotion. Tears began to flow.

Talk about embarrassing. I could barely carry on a conversation. Somehow I squeaked out, “I want you to know how much I appreciated you as a fourth-grade teacher.”

She was gracious. And of course, asked about Ryan and what he was doing. I was happy to report on his success. 🙂

This was the teacher who offered such reassurance. Yes, he fidgets. Yes, sometimes it appears he isn’t paying attention. He’s a boy. But he doesn’t miss a thing.

Here we are nine years later. Ryan is nineteen and a freshman in college. He is studying 3D art and animation and is excited about internship possibilities. He has goals for the future but lives in the moment.

Seeing his former teacher reminded me of the power of encouraging words. Positive words from a teacher to a parent. Words from one simple conversation, over nine years ago.

Word of the Year

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed many stories of friends choosing a word for the upcoming year. This is not something I have done before. I do like the idea of creating a point of focus. One word that would represent a challenge-something to work on or maybe a word of encouragement.

Each time I read about someone choosing their word, one word would come to mind. It was always the same word. But I avoided actually voicing that this would be my word. 

Instead, I named all of the reasons that this should not be my word. It is not a word I use to describe myself. Though not logical, I let my mind negatively wander.  

Simply thinking about the word would make me feel like crying. What if choosing this particular word meant the coming year would bring difficult challenges? Yes, I realize that is silly. Just being honest.

This morning I gave in, deciding this would indeed be my word for the year. Strong.

I would much prefer content, joyful or peaceful. Probably because I consider myself sentimental and emotional. And that may be the exact reason why I need to choose this word.   

My husband reminds me that I am strong. And I know it is ok to think of myself as strong. We all face challenges in this life. It is good to remember how I have faced challenges in the past. But most importantly, it is good to remember where my strength truly comes from.

“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

So, here is my word for the year 2020. STRONG! I embrace it and hope that by focusing on it, I will begin to see myself as the strong woman that I am.

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Emotions of Change

I survived the first full week of school! By Friday, I had cried several times and was feeling overwhelmed. Not that it was a horrible week, I was just exhausted.

As the relief of the weekend arrived, I began to contemplate the many reasons for my emotions. One answer stood out-change. Change, even positive change, is difficult. And this year is going to be filled with change.

I taught at my previous school for nine years. As far as jobs go, this was a record for me. It was comfortable, familiar. I knew the layout and the great people who worked there.

My new building is beautiful. It is a welcoming space filled with a positive, dedicated staff. And though I love entering each morning, it is still unfamiliar. I’m learning my way around.

For the past five years, I taught with the same two ladies. Teaching art, music, and P.E., we truly were the dream team. We quickly transformed from colleagues to good friends, sisters. I didn’t realize how much I would miss seeing them every day.

My new team is amazing! We are in a larger school, so there are six of us. Two teachers for each subject-art, music, and P.E. They’ve already helped me more than they know. But we are just beginning to know each other.

Learning my way around a new building. Getting to know new colleagues. Connecting with a new set of students.

As I considered these changes, I began to think about my almost five hundred new students. They are facing changes as well. Summer ending and school beginning again. For many, it means attending a new school.

Learning their way around a new building. Getting to know new teachers. Connecting with a new set of friends.

They are experiencing similar changes. And if these changes have such a powerful effect on me, how might they affect my students? Are they also feeling emotional and overwhelmed? Most certainly.

As I approach the upcoming school week, I need to be more aware of emotional reactions in myself and my students. We will work through the growing pains together and come out stronger on the other side. In the end, the results will be worth the change.

Words…Reactions

My interaction with a little friend at school this morning made me stop and think about the power of our words. Sometimes all it takes is a few short words to send someone into a tailspin. Yes, there are times we must ignore harsh words. Typically, that is much easier for adults than it is for children.

Such was this morning. One particular student was crying and crying, expressing a desire to go home. I tried to be sympathetic and funny, saying I wanted to go home too. That did not help. There was no comforting this one.

Discovering the reason for this reaction took at least twenty-thirty minutes and multiple adults. I’m afraid I was not one of those adults. Although I helped to a point, I was not the one for this job. My usual “dry up those tears” attitude was obviously not going to work. And honestly, I did not have the patience necessary this early in the day.

Whether this student overreacted or not is not the issue here. The fact is unkind words from another student lead to what seemed like an eternity of tears. Eventually, it passed, the student regained control and began the school day.

I wondered what other factors may have been in play. Didn’t sleep well? Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Didn’t eat breakfast? I don’t know. I do know I have experienced mornings like that.

Although it’s hard to admit, there have been those rare times when a cross word from someone almost brought me to tears. I’m not even talking about mean comments directed towards me. And I am an emotionally stable adult. (Just don’t ask my teammates or family.) 😉

So, should I really be surprised when a child reacts this way? I suppose it depends on the child and the situation. However, it does make me think even more about our need to teach and model kindness every day. Sounds simple but requires being consistent and intentional.

Here’s to tomorrow…hoping for an all-around happier start to the day. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Just maybe there will be some short words that will lead to happy reactions. ❤

Gotta love conversation hearts!