Teacher Heart

Confession time. This teacher’s heart, mind, and body are struggling. Each day brings physical and emotional exhaustion. This is not about complaining or seeking validation. I am acknowledging that we are in a difficult season.

Life is full of difficult seasons. This is not the first and will most certainly not be the last. Such is the world in which we live. It is just that I am having a difficult time dealing with this one.

One day can feel like a rollercoaster. One hour, I have a great class, kids engaged, lightbulbs going off. The next, I allow something small to wash away the positive. A problem with technology (shh…do not tell my husband.) 😉 My attitude, maybe a student’s attitude-it doesn’t matter which. I’m suddenly trying not to cry, counting the minutes until I can hide in the bathroom between classes and regain my composure.

My thoughts quickly move towards an “I don’t think I can do this” attitude. And every time this happens, encouragement follows.

An encouraging word from my husband. “You are stronger than you think you are.”

An encouraging comment from a colleague. “You inspire me.”

An encouraging email from another colleague. “M and T told me all about strong and weak beats…that music lesson stuck with them!”

All I see is that one word…encouraging. And these are only a few examples from the last several days. The individuals who shared their thoughts may not have realized the power held in their words, but I felt it in my teacher-heart. Their messages brought smiles to brighten my day and tears to wash away my doubts…renewal.

Renewal…the next focus word. Something we all must learn to practice. I am practicing it right now. Today, it looks like taking a personal day and a long drive. A time away, visiting my own parents. A time to rest and be loved as a daughter.

Other days, the renewal will look different. An evening walk with my husband. Taking time to play the piano. Talking to a friend. Writing, painting, something creative to ease my anxious mind. All things to help renew my heart, soul, and body so I can continue doing what I’m called to do for however long I’m called. ❤

A Tiny Bit Proud

My eight semesters of college Spanish are long gone. Although I recognize a few words and remember the pronunciation guides, my conversation skills are limited, to say the least.

Our school, and particularly my kindergarten classes, have a lot of Spanish-speaking students. One student in particular cries often and is always ready to go home. School is an adjustment for the littles, especially when adding COVID precautions and language barriers. It makes getting to know them a little more challenging.

In music class one day, I played a song that was in both English and Spanish. The student I mentioned smiled and stopped crying. It was obvious. I needed to think about using more songs and stories in Spanish.

Then last week, I came across a book I had ordered this past school year. It’s called “Peppa Pig: La lección de ballet.” I probably was not thinking about using it for a read-aloud at the time. But I decided to give it a try.

I practiced reading the book, making sure I understood the story. Watched an English version of the story. And then I asked the kindergarten teachers what they thought about having a guest reader.

Which brings us to this morning. I read the book in Spanish for my kindergarten classes! No, I did not understand every word but could pronounce most. And the kids seemed to enjoy the story.

Was the experience comfortable? Not really. Was it worth the attempt? Definitely!

How do I know? The teacher of my little friend who cries a lot said he was smiling through the whole story! ❤

I was too busy concentrating to notice!

I know there were mistakes, mispronounced words. But I walked away smiling and feeling just a tiny bit proud.

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. ❤

Acceptance

Even though this past week was spent preparing for the first day of school, I was in denial. Yes, it was a good week. I was glad to be back with colleagues, to have focused time for planning. Yet, in the back of my mind, I thought something different would happen.

I believed there would be a change in our plans before the first day. Somehow, there would be an announcement that we were transitioning to distance learning.

But that did not happen, and tomorrow is the day.

So, now it is time for acceptance. I will welcome our students with a smile, doing my best to ease their concerns. Hopefully, music will help us all adjust. It will not be school as usual, but we will find our new normal.

I will do my best to view the day through their eyes. And just maybe, they will help ease my concerns. 🙂 ❤

To laugh and play
On the swings
Pumping feet
Back and forth
Flying so high
Until a brave
Jump launches
Toward the sky

To show love
Skipping across
The playground
Hand in hand
With a friend
Spinning around
Falling down
On the ground

To speak truth
I love you
Immediately
Followed by
Your hair looks funny
Honest words
Unfiltered and
From the heart

To seek security
In the comfort
Of a father’s lap
Curled up in
Perfect rest
Breaths in sync
Every ounce of
Tension fading

To press rewind
Erasing today’s
Apprehensions
Long enough to
See our world
Thru the open
Eyes of wonder-
Like a child

Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles~Kelley Morris, piano

Significant

Last night was our annual “Meet the Teacher” event. It looked quite different from years past. More controlled, a limited number of parents and children attending at one time. Everyone wearing masks, maintaining distance.

While assisting a family in finding their classroom, I spotted one of my students from last year. He is a sweet boy, such a good student. He smiled behind that mask and said hello.

On my way back downstairs, I saw him again. This time, sitting with his mom. “Just enjoying the view,” he said. Mom shared that he would be doing school virtually this year. Little sister has a heart issue. They need to be careful. He is understanding, but obviously disappointed.

I wish I could accurately describe his eyes. So honest, so sincere. And his words, “Mrs. Morris, I really wish I could just give you a hug.” I responded, “Me, too, Sweetie. Me, too.”

And then I quickly walked away so he would not see me cry.

This small interaction, only a few minutes, was the most significant event of my entire day.

Small

The days seem long
And yet, they’re not
When viewing them
Thru a wider lens

Getting caught up
In what’s next
On the calendar
Is the expected

At least, that was
The case until
Our days were so
Abruptly changed

Life events often
Taken for granted
Now indefinitely
Placed on hold

And so, the small
Takes precedent
A kind word
An honest smile

A vantage point
Revealing that perhaps
The truly significant
Is actually quite small

Guidelines

Today was day 3 of our teacher back-to-school workweek. We are preparing to welcome students back in a few short days. We often joke about how teacher tired is real this first week back. Well, this school year teacher tired is multiplied by at least 1,000.

First, we have been physically absent from our buildings longer than usual. Second, it is hard to focus on what we do best-connect with students. We are spending a portion of our time strengthening our teaching skills. However, the impact of the COVID pandemic is also fighting for our attention-new procedures/changes in routine/guidelines.

Both areas of focus are necessary, but the combination is exhausting and overwhelming.

While being back with colleagues is encouraging, it is also challenging. I see the looks in teachers’ eyes. Excitement mixed with uncertainty. A hesitation that is difficult to label.

On Monday, I saw one of my favorite fourth-grade teachers entering the gym. I have not seen her since March. I know she has been busy advocating for students and families in our school community. I also know she must be exhausted.

My first instinct was to wrap her up in a big hug. One of those hugs that say, “I see you. It’s going to be ok.” However, I could not do that. I stopped myself.

The internal conflict was immediate and stifling. That is only one experience with one colleague on the very first day back. What will it feel like when it is hundreds of students? Students that are nervous, anxious, excited, scared… greeted only with a smile from my eyes and a kind word. Will that be enough?

I am not sure I will be able to follow those guidelines.

Destination

Denial is not
A particularly
Great state
To visit
And yet,
The plane
Has landed
Travel plans
Included a much
More desirable
Destination-
But here I am
Disembarking
Taking the ramp
Toward an unknown
Assistance required…
Needed…wanted…

Unsure which
Way to turn,
I keep looking
For the one
Holding a sign
With my name
Believing he will
Soon appear-
A guide thru
The unfamiliar-
Helping me reach
The intended destination

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

Welcome Back!

This week I was able to go back to my classroom for a short time. Take things off the walls, put away personal items, clean off my desk. Basically, the process of closing things up for summer.

Typically, this day happens in late May and is followed by a celebration with colleagues at a local restaurant. We congratulate each other on making it through the school year. We talk about plans for the summer. Not this time…

The building was empty, quiet. Only a few teachers are allowed in at the same time to work. The only sounds came from the precious workers in the cafeteria, busy preparing the food being distributed to our families.

My daughter, Rachel, went with me to help. Both of us wearing face masks. It didn’t take us long to get things packed away. I only had two small boxes to carry home-some personal piano music and my Freddie the Frog puppet.

The final step was turning in my keys. This action usually comes with a sigh of relief. A pause in responsibility, allowing rest after a hard year’s work. Not so much.

Once we were back home, I found myself feeling grumpy and irritable. I tried reading a little. I had a zoom meeting with my team-our last official one of this year. Everything just felt strange.

Maybe a nap would help. Clear my head, at least. It did not completely change my mood, but it did allow some perspective.

It’s no surprise I was feeling strange! This is not how the school year is supposed to end. It is supposed to end with celebrations, hugs, goodbyes, and even a few tears. Those things will not happen.

I was missing that “Hooray for summer!” time with colleagues because I missed the “Hooray for summer!” time with students.

My classroom is empty. Ready for a fresh start. Hopefully, that fresh start begins with a happy, “Welcome back!”

Freddie will be making appearances in some upcoming Zoom meetings. 😉 ❤

Ripple Effect

Our district, Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK, currently has four sites working daily to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children in our community. In one week, over 70,000 meals were distributed. Today marks the end of week four.

It takes a massive amount of work for this to happen. There are so many people behind the scenes planning, organizing, preparing for this need. And many other volunteers step in to help with distribution.

Whether they realize it or not, those working in the background are creating ripples. Not just a pebble tossed into a pond, more like a boulder lobbed from the shore. All of them working together to create a lasting, powerful ripple effect.

Just imagine. A family drives through the line. They receive enough food to feed their children for that day. And they can do the same thing the next day. Actually, every day, Monday through Friday.

The parents and children realize how much their school community cares for them. They share their experience with friends and extended family. A tiny glimmer of hope in an unsettling time.

No, this is not the answer to all of the problems families are currently facing. Many are dealing with job loss, not to mention isolation. But not having enough food? I cannot imagine the fear that brings.

I hope it is these kinds of things we will remember when this time has passed. People recognizing a need and doing whatever it takes to fill that need. People working tirelessly with no thought of their own recognition.

I hope these difficult times remind us to stop and look around. To see acts of kindness. And to recognize each as a ripple with the ability to become a wave.

A wave of compassion that has the power to wash over us all.

A ripple effect with endless possibilities for positively impacting the future.