FAITH | ready, set, test.

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This week across the state of Texas teachers and students are at the point in the school year that they have been anxiously awaiting for the past 9 months. It’s STAAR testing week and from previous experience, I can say that testing days are by far some of the most mind numbing, feet dragging, soul draining days as a teacher. I have been seeing former coworkers posting on social media about their testing weeks and I can’t help but say a quick prayer for each and every one of them as I imagine their tired feet being kicked up after their tiresome days.

Testing is honestly, probably the biggest thing I don’t miss about teaching.

The concept that is standardized testing is still I continue to struggle with when I’m asked about my teaching philosophy/future plans as an educator. I won’t delve into too much personal detail but I (and I’m sure many others – educators or not) can see the positives/negatives to both sides of the testing line. One thing I did enjoy about getting to this point in the school year with my students is that it gave us an attainable goal we had to reach. It was a milestone for each student in someway and myself. It was a day on the calendar that we were slowing moving towards during the school year. We had finally made it to ‘that’ point in our planners and afterward there was always a sense of accomplishment – like, I am officially done with this grade level now and can move on. It was preparation in way, for bigger tests/milestones in life and I felt good knowing that I was there, getting to support my students in some way as they were finally able to jump over their personal hurdles in the testing environment.

Then there is the negative…the pressure on both students and teachers was and is something that I personally, and morally have a really hard time with. I know I have read articles about all of the unnecessary stress being placed on students at such a young age right now. Kids coming home and having panic attacks from a state test is obviously not the most optimal educational situation. Kids should be kids. Kids should play, and learn, and enjoy their educations to the fullest. But then how can we hold them accountable? How can we make sure that students are learning at least some of the basic strategies as their developmental peer group? How can we make sure that teachers are challenging them and pushing them to become the best educated members of society that they can be?

It’s so hard isn’t it. To find that balance.

We aren’t close but I know that one day it will be figured out. I have faith in that. For now, I’m going to keep offering up my days for my teacher friends and teachers everywhere as they actively monitor their students take the biggest test they have had to take thus far in their little lives. I’m going to continue to try and set an example for teachers and parents (especially when mine is in school) that while the system is far from perfect, a little grace goes a long way and if we all just stop and realize that we all want the same end result… I think we’ll all do pretty ok on a much more important test that life offers us.

Just my two cents. Happy Wednesday!

on staying home

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A few months ago I shared some thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t quite shake. Now that I have come to a final decision I thought I should follow up to that post. The debate that was plaguing my every thought at the time was my decision between returning to teaching in the fall or staying home.

At the time, I was preoccupied with what others would think of my decision. Would I be seen as a neglectful mother if I went back to work while having the option of staying home? Would I be seen as undriven – giving up on my career and a degree I worked so hard for? Or would I be seen as lazy by not making my schedule and my life as packed as possible.

I spoke with coworkers, family and friends and it seemed that everyone I talked to had a set opinion on this situation. Some had always envisioned being a stay at home mom, some couldn’t bear the thought of being away from work longer than 6 weeks, some didn’t really have a choice in the matter and either had to stay home or return to work. It seemed to me that everyone had taken the time to think about this decision and had a clear cut answer. I had been thinking about this choice I would have to make from the moment I found out I was pregnant. Why was it so difficult for me to decide? In all honesty, I struggled with this decision until the day I resigned.

About two weeks after bringing our girl home I started feeling antsy and isolated. All I could think about was teaching, getting back into my classroom and being surrounded by my coworkers. I was craving adult human interaction –  which I think is pretty normal for a first time mom at home with a newborn she knows absolutely nothing about. At that time I thought – there is nothing else I can do, I need to go back and teach in the fall. Staying at home is going to drive me mad.

A few more weeks passed and I started to get to know my daughter. We started to slide into a routine (as much of a routine that is possible with a 5 week old) and I started considering my options a bit more. But the thought remained…I just couldn’t imagine not going back to my classroom in the fall. For the past three years I have done the same thing. I have thrown myself into my work and my school and essentially for 9 months out of the year I have been unavailable to those around me – including my family. But then again, I couldn’t imagine not being with my daughter. I really couldn’t bear the thought of taking her to a daycare and letting someone else experience all of her firsts. The most mind boggling part of this entire process is that I have never wanted to be a stay at home mom. I never imagined this choice being so difficult.

While I was pregnant I interviewed 10 different daycare facilities. I took it on as a full time job and I saw what was being offered in the infant childcare department. Out of those ten tours I only felt semi-comfortable with one daycare. I even took our deposit in just in case I did decide to go back in the fall. After dropping off the deposit I got in my car and cried. Hormonal tears, tears because I couldn’t imagine dropping my girl off at daycare, but mostly tears of frustration because I still hadn’t come to a decision and I was tired of my heart feeling so torn.

The last week of school – after a lot of prayers, thought, and time I made my decision. I scheduled a meeting with my principal and resigned. I’m not entirely sure of the moment when I figured it out. But my thoughts stopped being so back and forth all the time and I think I just accepted the options set before me. I also considered both options fully. I have not necessarily been as happy as I could be this past year teaching (pregnancy aside) and I have been feeling restless – like it was time for a change of pace in some way or another. Packing up my classroom was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. That school was my first big girl job. I made friends and grew in ways that I never imagined but I know that this is the right decision for us right now. I know teaching is not out of my life forever (I don’t really think it can be). Instead of 20 little people needing me all day I’m going to be with one little person that I need just as much as she needs me.

And so life goes on, I’m excited about this new adventure and what it’s going to bring our way.

to teach or not to teach

…these are the two options that have been frequenting my thoughts for the past 8 (almost 9) months.

This is a post that has been sitting in my drafts for a long while because I wasn’t sure if this was something I should post about. If this was something that I should share with the internet because of the people I do and don’t know who read this blog. But lately I have been thinking about it more (for obvious-upcoming-birth reasons) and have also felt the need to finish my thoughts and hit publish. I have also been confronted with this topic more and more the closer we get to meeting this little girl and I realize that this is something that EVERY woman-becoming-a-mother must think about in some capacity.

I haven’t really openly talked about my options for next year much aside from conversations with my (wonderful, patient, etc.etc.) husband because I don’t think I have really known what I want for this next year or what my opinions on working vs. not working were. I don’t like talking about big life changes when I don’t really have an answer to give because I feel that it leaves me feeling others unfulfilled or worried. Basically, the decision is mine. We are fortunate enough to be at a place where I am able to consider my options and really weigh both as equally as possible. (However, to clear up any questions – the final verdict is still out and I am nowhere near making any sort of decision at the moment.)

This weekend we had dinner with an old college friend who just had her second (adorable) little boy and once again I was asked, “So, what are you going to do about next year???” She is a fellow teacher and decided to stay at home after being confronted with a series of decisions after their first son was born almost two years ago. She is definitely an advocate for taking the time off to get to know your kiddos and kept talking up their whole situation and choice. That night, instead of leaving with a feeling of confirmation or being able to side one way or another I left feeling torn. Honestly, I was a little frustrated because I had been doing such a great job pushing these thoughts to the back of my mind for so long and there I was having to think about them again. No one likes thinking about hard decisions.

It left me asking myself why. Why do I feel so torn? Where is my mind on all of this? Where is my heart?It also left me asking my husband what his opinions were. Which as awful as it might sound is something I had yet to do…or I at least I hadn’t been giving his thoughts a fair chance.

A part of me is completely unaware of what my husband and I are about to get ourselves into. We have a vague concept of babies and are both so excited about this next venture in life – but at the end of the day we have no clue what to expect. I don’t know how I am going to feel when I finally meet this little person, I don’t know how my body is going to be effected, I don’t know if everything will go smoothly or if there will be some bumps along the way. I don’t honestly know if I feel really, truly comfortable not being around my kid for the majority of the day and letting some other person bond with her.

On the other hand I look at where I have come in these past three years of teaching. All that I have learned, all that I have grown to love about my career choice and I wonder…am I throwing it all away? To stay home? To…just. be. a. mom. Why can’t I be one of those people who is so completely in love with this concept of being a stay at home mom? Will I be seen as lazy by friends, family, coworkers, parents of current and former students, my boss? Just because there is a part of me that wants to be with my family? This school year has been tough. Pregnancy aside, I would have to say that this year has challenged my philosophies on education more than any other year and for once I’m not entirely sure where I stand. Where do I go from here? I have always been very open and honest with myself and others that I have never wanted to stay in the classroom forever. I have always had thoughts of pursuing higher education, possibly obtaining a masters in counseling, looking into other career opportunities with kids, etc. But just I don’t know right now and to say that this is something that completely terrifies me is a huge understatement.

There are so many people I have talked to since announcing our pregnancy that have shared their thoughts and feelings. Both working and nonworking moms alike have been very open and honest with me about their personal feelings on this subject and that no matter what our decision is in the end everyone has assured me with the same sentiment: all that truly matters is what’s best for our family. I just wish I knew what was best for our family right now. I’m really looking forward to this time in Lent to focus on this big question and seeking some clarity and answers. I think the Gospel reading during mass yesterday said it perfectly and that really even if I never receive full confirmation one way or another – I can’t waste my time worrying right now:

“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”

Mt. 6:24-34

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“You can’t find information in books, you can only find it on the internet…”

cc4bddfe851911e393760e87319991e7_8How we were all feeling in classroom A122 yesterday.

This is what I heard from a student yesterday as we were continuing our research on planets for an informative project we are currently working on in writing.

We have already ventured to the library this week to learn about researching on our school iPads and the computer lab to use some kid friendly search engines. Everything has been going swimmingly and my kiddos (side note: I never thought I would be a person to use the word ‘kiddo’…until I became a teacher. I’m pretty sure only education related people use this phrase?) have been so excited and interested in this project. Teacher win! Enthusiasm about learning! Positive sentiments abound from my little brain!

Until yesterday.

When I brought out…

the books.

Our librarian pulled what I’m pretty sure is every planet and space book to ever exist in our school and is graciously letting our grade level hoard them until further notice. I gave my students copious amounts of time to continue their research and read about their planets and I thought everything was going to go just as fabulously as it had been the past week. Five minutes in. WRONG.

While only one student actually uttered the above phrase, many thoughts of  similar meaning were shared. I love that my students are so adept in the use of technology. I love that they love using technology for learning. But my eyeballs almost rolled out of my head yesterday when multiple students came to me completely mystified – looking at the book, looking at me, looking at the book, looking at me – wondering how the heck they were supposed to use the words on the pages.

I can honestly say that yesterday was the first time in my teaching career that I felt completely and totally…old and lost. I had to walk my students through using a book, finding a fact, and taking a note. I was absolutely astounded at even having to think about teaching something like this in my class. Now I know that kids are in front of a screen more today than they have ever been in the past but a part of my hopelessly-romantic-teaching-philosophy heart hoped that books were not becoming lost and forgotten.

It definitely helped me gain some perspective and I’m interested in seeing how the rest of this project goes…because we are done researching on the computers and the books are pretty much all we have left! I hope we can hold it together. I may just be rocking their worlds a little *too* much.

Oh, and yesterday we had about 8.7 meltdowns in my classroom. Myself included. Thank God it’s the weekend!