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Summer

My number one goal for this summer has nothing to do with being a teacher and everything to do with being a mom: Potty. Train. This. Child. Of. Mine. Put a City Girls period on it.

At this point, anything else is gravy and honestly I eat my potatoes without it.

I am fortunate enough that I don’t have to work during the summer. I choose the 12 month pay option, we don’t do “big vacations”, and I don’t have large debts to repay so while teacher pay still isn’t the greatest I do get to enjoy the perk of having two months “off.” With a 3 year old, that means that I turn my mom all the way “on” in ways that I haven’t during the school year.

Mom guilt is real and it has been strong as I see areas where my baby is behind. While I know kids develop and do things at their own pace, I can’t help but notice that my baby (a teacher’s son nonetheless) does not have the same speech as his peers, has almost no interest in potty training, and botches up the ABCs like its a full fledged remix. I try to tell myself it’s all okay but really I wonder if things would be this way if I didn’t have lesson plans and grades to do at home and if mentally I wasn’t drained like a bathtub when I arrive home from work… if my presence was fully present. I wonder.

In the summer, I get to see. I put the “what ifs” to the side and simple be…his mom.

For a short while the mom guilt is gone.

If I’m not careful though, teacher guilt can skyrocket as I browse the internet and see teachers participating in all kinds of PD, book studies, planning, and all the other things that are just not me.

I vow now not to feel guilty.

…and that’s not to say I am doing nothing, it’s just that Edu isn’t my summer priority. I will likely read a book or two that’s somewhat related to Edu on one of my millionteenth trips to the potty with my son and mayyybe while lounging in the sun…but that’s the extent of it.

Early August I will gear up like a classic Lil Jon song and turn down for what but for now I am embracing these upcoming weeks where I put away my teacher hat for bit…and I bet I’ll be better for it.

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

This week has been hard.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

It was a short week, only 4 days, and I left work feeling broken.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

I am slowly putting my pieces back together.

couldn’t put Humpty together again.

I have written extensively here about my philosophy regarding high stakes standardized bubble testing, I have told myself how little it really means, I have read plenty of articles filled with research, yet once again this year those tests hit and they hit me hard. Knock the wind out of me, I can’t breathe, where did these tears come fromhard.

I started the year mourning my class that I looped with for three years, children who I grew to love like my own, sad that our time together had come to an end. I wondered if I could love another class.

When I met this year’s group it wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t smooth sailing. They were nothing like the ones I had for three years and the adjustment period was real. We experienced a series of ups and downs. And downs and ups. Through all that I found the answer to my question…no we weren’t always perfect but yes, I could love another class.

And I did.

I see each of my kids as these unique and brilliant individuals with hopes, goals, dreams, and brilliant minds and skill sets. I have seen tremendous growth…first grade reading levels moved up to second, third, and some even fourth. Their growth has been phenomenal.

I tried to be realistic about what this years test results would bring. I knew what the projections were, I knew what growth to “expect”, but I also knew what we did all year and quite frankly I expected the unexpected because these kids are great and their numbers should match that.

Even when I know they don’t. And this year was no exception. They didn’t.

Still.

Seeing the numbers next to the names of these kids I have grown to love…numbers that don’t match what I know about them (and frankly don’t match other data points) hurt. For our year together to be reduced to these numbers was devastating.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

I felt broken.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

But I am putting myself back together again.

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Insecurity

Today I wore a pair of shiny silver six inch stiletto heels to school… to teach in. I wasn’t going anywhere special afterschool and there were no special celebrities coming into my classroom today. There were no runways. No cameras. Not even even a selfie stick. Just a regular day. It may seem wildly impractical to many, but to me, it was exactly what I needed.

Whenever I’m feeling a bit off I find that a pretty dress, good mascara, and a cute pair of heels serve as great cup of chicken noodle soup.

This morning I found the tallest shoes that were living in my closet, my plumpest mascara, and my favorite dress and prepared to slay. I didn’t wake up like this but truth be known I needed to mask today’s insecurities.

In the interest of full transparency, I have wrestled with insecurity ever since giving birth to my first (and currently only) child. While I was fully prepared for a slew of postpartum changes and adjustments, I had no idea that the bounce back would be so slow. Turtle style.

It’s been three years and I still feel like I am occupying someone else’s body. I look in the mirror and think, “this can’t be me.” I remember the old me who didn’t mind how I looked. Now I can’t leave the house without trying on three different outfit combinations. Things don’t quite fit the same, feel the same, or look the same. At all.

I tend to spend much of my time either teaching or momming. I eat as though I am still nursing a million times a day and when I get home I just want to get dinner done and sit down somewhere.

But I am not getting anywhere by sitting down.

So I decided not to sit down. Instead I arrived home, gave my husband valuable father-son time with our toddler, took off my heels, put on my Nikes, and went for a run (trot)…music blasting in my earbuds.

Livin’ my best life.

Huffing and puffing all the way. Tomorrow I plan to do the same.

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“Junior”

Sometimes my philosophy clashes with reality and I am left feeling like a potato chip, ruffled.

Awhile back I wrote a bit about a kid I called Junior. I mentioned him in several places but I don’t think I quite accurately expressed the extent of everything.

Junior has a great heart, a beautiful soul, and I feel lucky that I got a chance to know him. He demonstrated great empathy, quick wit, and had a natural charm. He gave the greatest hugs and his smile traveled straight to my heart.

He also had a lot going on. There were outbursts he couldn’t control and emotions he couldn’t process. There were some medical diagnoses thrown into the mix as well as medication that was regularly irregular. It became a giant battle that I didn’t quite know how to prepare him for.

I did my best to stand with him through it all.

I rocked him in my arms after he threw desks and chairs in a rage, told him it would be okay after he physically lashed out at an adult who told him not to run in the hall, and tried to help him regulate his breathing when it felt like his heart was about to beat right out of his body. I cried with him as he wrote notes that depicted suicide and tried my best to protect him from any triggers that presented themselves to him (although that later proved impossible).

When he was at school, he consumed most of my energy. When he was absent, he did the same. I always had Junior on my mind and sometimes I felt like an emotional wreck…because no matter what I did it seemed like it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

We began processes and paperwork and around December he left my classroom to an alternative setting that would be better equiped to equip him with what he needed.

At first, it was a huge sigh of relief. A mountain of stress, anxiety, and worry lifted from me immediately. That relief was short lived and it came with a price. Guilt.

I felt guilty.

Mega guilty.

I still do.

What kind of person am I? How can I feel relief? How dare I! Shame on me.

Philosophically, I wanted to “be the one” for him. A belief in him, a good relationship, and love should be all it took.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Something in his equation was missing.

That is the reality.

It’s now been a few months and feelings of guilt mixed with relief still plague me.

I think of Junior often. I hope he is okay. Actually I hope he is better than okay.

I hope out paths cross and I get some sort of positive update.

I still have so much hope…

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Conversations on Race

This morning my classroom routine came to a screeching halt when a little girl hollered across the room, “MS. DIXON!!! JASMINE IS BEING RACIST!!!” I hadn’t even processed the words when Ruby yelled it again. She was among a group of 6 girls working at a table and was clearly upset. The situation sounded like it needed immediate adult attention so I took a deep breath and walked over, not sure what exactly I was about to walk into.

I pulled up a chair and sat myself down. “What happened, Ruby?”

Ruby said, “Jasmine called her black!”

Before I could even respond, Jasmine blurted out, “I didn’t call you anything!”

A back and forth she said/didn’t say battle was on the brink of happening in the worst kind of ways.

“Hold on, wait a second. Jasmine, what exactly did happen?”

And that’s when she explained that she just now realized we have more Hispanic kids than black kids in the class and only one white person (me) and she was trying to count to see how many more (it didn’t make sense to her, she thought there should be an equal number). She was counting Ruby as black.

Ruby quickly said, “But I don’t like being called black” and before I could follow up she stated, “my dad is black, but my mom is Hispanic so that means I’m both.”

So simple. So clear.

She wants all parts of her to be seen.

We did chat some more and everyone left in a good space. It was a reminder to me that we need to be having more conversations on race than we currently do. Kids really do understand (more so than many adults in fact).

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Once Upon a Time

I’m not always the teacher I want to be; like a story, there’s different versions of me.

Sometimes I’m patient, loving, and give you a cavity sweet. Sometimes I’m funny and silly and teaching to a beat. Schoohouse Rocks, not School of Hard Knocks. Warm and fuzzy like a sweater, I want to be the one for everyone. Period and exclamation point.

But, dot dot dot, sometimes I’m just not. It becomes abundantly clear at the end of each quarter when the “big tests” come near. Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, sometimes even I want to hide from myself. I’m not feelin’myself, but I did wake up like this.

Like this. Tense. Jittery. Short on patience. Long on grumpiness. Fully anxious.

…and it’s all so senseless. I mean, we all do our best. I have written more than once how I don’t even philosophically believe in these tests but (but there’s always a but) I do care about them. It has gotten to the point where it affects me immensely.

I am learning how to function in my testing disfunction, some days more successfully than others. Today we smashed eggs on our foreheads as part of a review game for math. I don’t know if I was cracking up in laughter or insanity but I was definitely closer to being the teacher I wanted to be during a testing window…I almost forgot about Ms. Hyde lurking inside. She is still there.

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Bad Days Are a Thing

Today was one of those days. The kind of day you just want to throw away.

I went from grumpy to miffed to full out livid. Riveted in strife, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on.

Then I could.

Like an epiphany it all suddenly became clear to me. Today we were functioning in disfunction, heart malfunction. Tick tock tick, time bomb, what was happening was less than bomb. Except their tests. Those they bombed and as such my heart exploded, causing an overall explosion in our day.

Boom.

We typically give common grade level assessments after each unit in math and in reading. They don’t happen every week and not always on Friday but today we had two. Math and reading. On a Friday. Not ideal but no big deal, right?

Wrong. That’s where things went left.

These assessments were the last set before our big quarterly district tests and in my mind it meant it was time to buckle down with our pencils up and make some noise. Metaphorically of course. Not literally.

But they were literal about it. They moaned, groaned, whined, and complained and I wasn’t here for it. I fussed, grussed, hushed, and shushed.

So they got quiet and complied in taking these assessments in bitter silence.

I was hoping to get to form great groups with valuable data. I was hoping for a glimpse into what I might see when quarterlies came. Hope, reassurance, and allll the things. Instead I got muck. Mush. They worked with the most minimal of efforts. Not nary strategy was used. Not one iota of care. Circling stuff in the most non-sensical ways. It started bad and got worse.

Like a Drake song I was going zero to a hundred, real quick.

I saw bad indications of what’s to come. Ultimately in the moment I was perplexed. I mean, why in the world wouldn’t an eight year old want to spend the largest chunk of both math AND reading doing their absolute best taking a test?!? ….How dare they! The audacity!

Yeah, I am now sending myself the side eye. I wasn’t at the time though. Oh no. At the time I huffed, puffed, and blew the whole day down, alllll the way down, and out of proportion.

I could have handled it all so very differently.

I will.