I'm writing this post on pure adrenaline and emotion :) I just got back from my 8th graders' promotion. This has, without a doubt, been the most messed-up and crazy year of my life. And I feel like it's kind of all culminated this week and built up and now everything is feeling very, very real.
First, thank you for all of your thoughts and comments and advice on going vegan! I am one week deep with no meat and feeling pretty great, actually. I'm doing the Buzzfeed clean eating challenge and just took the meat out of the recipes, which actually has left me feeling kind of hungry, so I've been adding whole foods in as random snacks. A handful of blueberries here, a few extra carrots there. I feel good. So, the no meat trial continues!
Second, thanks for hanging in there with me while I get my life together. I have a TON of interviews for schools next week and things are kind of coming to a head, and I have a feeling I will be finalizing and making a lot of big life decisions in the next couple of weeks. But first, teaching.
Today was my kids' last day. I have to go in tomorrow to turn in my keys but essentially, I am done, finished, and have three years of teaching under my belt. But I have all of these thoughts in my head and I need to get them on paper! (Ok computer screen...same thing).
Something freaking awesome happened this year. And today, it all came out in the form of words, tears, and gestures.
In case you didn't know, teaching eighth grade is hard. Like, really, it is. It's super tough. It's a rough age, but I have been drawn to middle school, and especially 8th grade, since I started block teaching five years ago. I love it. I love the kids, I love the age, and I love that they're still young enough to be interested, goof around, and have fun with me in class. Teaching is hard, though, for sure. I have lots of days where I think that I can't do this anymore, that this year is definitely my last year, that I literally might die from frustration with my students. I have days where I can't wait to get my yoga teacher training so that I can transition to teaching fitness. But, seriously, it's all a sham. Because teaching has to be, hands down, the best job in the world. And I believe this for fully selfish reasons. (by the way feel free to remind me of this post in October when I'm ready to tear my hair out over standardized testing :)
When my 8th graders came at the beginning of the year, I had not gotten good reports on them from the 7th grade teachers. I was pretty guarded when they came into my room. And, yeah. They were a rough bunch. Behavior issues, motivation issues, all of it. They frustrated me. They upset me. They were the biggest challenge I've had in my three years of teaching (and I used to work at an alternative school...). The behavior wasn't the big issue though. It was motivation. Apathy. Getting them to see how incredibly smart they were, and what amazing things could happen if they would open their minds and apply those smarts to what we were doing in class, and outside of it.
Anyway, to make a long story short, they got it. They did. They grew so much this year and they completely blew my expectations out of the water. I watched them change, think, interact. I heard the ideas that they had and the questions that they asked and in February I thought to myself, "Oh my God....they got it. They've got it. They've figured it out." And they did! And yeah sure there were still a lot of rough days, because, well, it's teaching. But I knew they had it. I knew it.
And in the last week I realized how much I don't want them to graduate. I mean, I do, but I'm genuinely so sad that my time with them is finished.
So that leads me to promotion. If you've read The Hunger Games, you know what the three-finger salute is. Basically, it looks like this:
Everyone holds out their left hand, with the three middle fingers up together. To quote the book, "It means thanks, it means admiration, respect, and good-bye to a loved one."
In case you didn't know, I'm a HUUUUUUUGE HG fan. I have taught all three books for three years straight and the kids at school tend to know me the Hunger Games teacher because they know how much I love it and by the time we finish reading the books in class I have successfully converted all of them into addicts as well!
Well. At some point this week (maybe today...I'm not exactly sure) my kids decided they were going to do this for me during the promotion ceremony, because they all know that I'm moving. So they organized it with the help of our wonderful math teacher, and during the promotion, they all stood up and saluted me. And...I lost it. I tried not to cry outwardly too much but I was so shocked and caught off guard and it was just AMAZING.
Highlight of my teaching career, for sure. Nothing they could have said or done would have meant as much to me as that gesture. It was powerful for me. And it made me realize why I love teaching, and there is just one huge, selfish reason: It makes me feel so damn good.
I've really struggled the last year with whether or not I want to continue teaching with this big move. I've thought off and on about getting into fitness as my career, but even if that did happen I know it probably wouldn't be soon, because I need to finish getting my certifications. Anyway, with all of the complaining I do, it's the stuff like this that solidifies my career choice and makes me realize that there's nothing I would rather be doing. In all three years I don't think I've gotten more hugs, more tears, more loving comments from my students than tonight. I've never felt so much like I made a difference. I do pride myself on being a good teacher, I know that I am, but tonight really made me realize how lucky I am to be able to work with kids. Having a 14 year old tell you that you made them love reading, that you were the best teacher they've had, that you "get them", and that they couldn't have made it through the year without you...those are probably the most rewarding things I've ever heard in my life. And the things they told me tonight made me completely forget about Steven, my breakup, my impending move. All I could think was, "How did I get this lucky to have these kids?"
I'm a BIG believer in things happening for a reason. Coming to Tucson, leaving Tucson, teaching, dating Steven for 5 years, getting Rodney, breaking up with Steven, all of these things happened for a reason. I'm also a big believer in timing. I think yoga came into my life EXACTLY when I needed it the most, I think the people I have met in Arizona all came in right when they were supposed to.... And so one of my kids said to me tonight, "Miss, I couldn't have made it through this year without you". And it really made me think. It made me think about how much fun I had this year with them. And how much I laughed with them, and how sometimes I would come in to school in a terrible mood because of the shit going on at home with Steven and when they came into my room they would immediately come say hi to me, high five me, put a smile on my face, and just turn my mood around. And it really made me realize that I had these kids this year for a reason. I probably couldn't have gotten through the year without them. Last year I even considered teaching at a high school in Tucson for this year because of the amazing reputation the school has...and I just couldn't. I couldn't leave the middle school kids...and then I got these kids. At exactly the right time, right when I needed them.
This is way long and emotional and I know it's pretty sappy. I'm not saying this year was perfect at school. It was the toughest, most challenging year for me so far. But I really think that's why what my kids did and said to me today and tonight meant even more to me. We worked really hard to get here....and now I have these wonderful memories to remember them by. And I learned from them. They changed me. I feel so different than I felt a year ago. And now I have a renewed energy and passion for what I do...it's always been there but today, I am feeling all of the benefits of the hard work I and my kids put in this year. Teaching is hands down the most rewarding job in the world. I'm so grateful for every single one of my students and for all they have done for me.
Tonight is a night of reflection for me. This isn't where I saw myself at 26 (my bday is next week!) but as my birthday approaches I'm realizing how much I have to be grateful for. I have family and friends that love me, I'm healthy and happy. I have a positive outlook on life, I am dedicated to my job and my hobbies. I've got kids that love and appreciate me, and I'm in a situation where I can go wherever I want and be whoever I want to be and find more students to inspire and influence. I'm SO LUCKY and I think it's really important for me to get this stuff out (even though it is a wee bit sappy) for me to reflect on when things get tough.
Thanks to you if you read this whole post! And if your'e one of my kids who found my blog (or one of the few who have been reading it for months now- Marcus, I mean you) thank you so much for everything you did for me this year, and I can't wait to hear about all the great things you guys go on to do in the future!