Whoa.Ten.Years.

Graduating from college and moving into my first apartment with David and my bestie, Laura, feels like a lifetime ago. I remember buying some “grown-up” clothes and playing dress-up and make-believe as we all interviewed for first jobs. The idea of not being a student was so foreign. My only memories in life were of being a student. The cycle of September to June classes and school work and a sweet summer vacay were all any of ever knew. And then, it was done. What do you mean I only get 9 vacation days? What do you mean I only have 4 sick days a year? And staring into adulthood was terrifying! How exactly do I pay an electric bill? Like how does the electric company know where I live and do I have to write them a check? Is a security deposit just a scam to make you give the landlord more money?

Then ten years happened. From thinking that adulthood was awkward and uncomfortable, I now love being a teacher, having a family, and dare I say being an adult. It is funny to think that it has been a decade of adulting in this particular career path. Never could I have imagined art 23 that I would put such firm roots down. I am excited for what’s ahead and for embracing some new and some well-worn mentalities heading into the next ten: Flexibility, Patience, Empathy, Diligence, Laughter, Kindness, Engaging, Contemporary, Real, In-Depth.

Seven in education 

It’s really hard to believe that this year will commence seven years as a classroom teacher! That very first day of year one continues to remain a vivid memory as I stood before my class inwardly shaking and outwardly scared. A lot changes in seven years in a classroom. In many ways, I am more confident than ever to start and in others I still feel fresh, new, and inexperienced. Perhaps that is why this profession is so exciting. No year, no class, no single day is ever the same. I might be teaching United States history again, but each time it’s better, each time it’s different, and each time the context around the course shifts and provides an excellent landscape to tap for real world applications. The impending primaries and elections are ripe for teaching American history. To say I am excited is an understatement. Cracking open my neat, new notebook to jot down project ideas, field trips, and lessons is the most satisfying first act of the school year. After a long summer break, I do feel rested, I feel more creative, and I feel ready to meet the new kiddos, their questions, their challenges, their curiosity, and their passions. 

  
And just when I am ready to race my car over to the school, hop out and charge up the hill to that first day of classes, I think of my little boy who I will have to drop off at daycare and I cry. I weep. My throat closes in saddness.  Mommies, does this ever get easier? I feel so much guilt and grief for leaving Henry and pain for missing him and the first day hasn’t even started yet!

ménage à trois: me, caffiene, & sleep deprivation

Monday night I felt very prepared for school. Henry had been sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches, I had packed up my bags to make the morning departure go smoothly, and David and I even spent a few minutes just the two of us to connect and reflect before the hustle and bustle of the school year commenced. Then the week went like this:

Tuesday 1AM, 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, 5AM: Henry decides to boycott sleep and/or he was worried I would not wake up for my alarm and wanted to make sure I was up and ready to go.  Nothing says, “Let’s get this party started” like of sleepless night, right?

Tuesday 6:30AM-7:40AM: The usual 25 minute commute is endless as everyone in the 20 mile stretch to school decides to hit the road early for the first day of school.

Tuesday 8AM-12PM: A blur of classes, students, faculty, lessons, meetings, emails, and trying to speak coherently after spending the summer mostly in the company of 4 people or less. Oh, yea….and I have to pump for baby Henry A LOT.  So also I spent time running in and out of the Nurse’s Office and then trying to relax enough when in there in order to accomplish this task. And, of course I wore a dress on the first day in order to look “fabulous” which meant pumping was an interesting procedure. Note to self: No more dresses.

Tuesday 12-2PM: Try to call my mother for an update, as this is the first day I am totally away from home, but her phone keeps going to voice mail. Usher in PANIC, SWEAT, and  calling her number over and over again. Is everyone alive?

Tuesday 3PM: See that our friend and neighbor has been able to knock on the door and confirm that everyone is indeed alive and fine and my mom plugs her phone in. Whew!

Tuesday 3:30PM-4:30PM: slow go through traffic all the way home.

Tuesday 4:30-9:00PM: Soak up as much of my family time as possible. Seeing Henry at the end of the day is the BEST! I cannot get enough of that little man’s smell, smile, cuddles. Also, I shed a few tears because I am so happy to see him and so happy the day went so well at home for him. And really I am just an emotional person these days anyway.

Wednesday 12AM, 2AM, 4AM: Henry is no longer worried about me missing my alarm and extends his sleep from every hour to every two hours. It is amazing how “highly functioning” one can be with so few hours of sleep. I guess it is all about lowering one’s standards for “functioning.”

Wednesday 6:30AM-7:20AM: Tons of traffic yet again. I am looking forward to when everyone collectively starts to sleep in or snoozes their alarms and I can perhaps squeak by ahead of the traffic cluster.

Wednesday 8AM-2:15PM: Another whirlwind of classes, students, emails, pumping, and trying to do all of this without breaking a sweat in the crushing heat that has enveloped Boston. Somehow all of this is done today with less of the “teacher crust” of yesterday. While I am definitely not in my groove, teaching is starting to feel comfortable again. It is like breaking in a pair of jeans after they have stiffened up from the dryer.

Wednesday 2:30PM-3:30PM: Take a walk down memory lane with the senior class.  As they prepare to apply for college, we teachers share stories from our college years. It was pretty great hearing my co-workers’ stories and having the opportunity to share my own. Go BC!

Wednesday 3:30PM-3:50PM: Drive fairly smoothly to Natick and decide to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru for a treat. This was my guiltiest cup of coffee ever! I wanted to head home to Henry but I also wanted an afternoon pick me up so I could feel alive and present during my time with Henry. I justified the pit stop by noting this Starbucks was a drive thru.

Wednesday 4:10PM: Arrive home and snuggle Henry.  Immediately realize I left all of my pumping gear and all of Henry’s milk back at school! Panic sets in and I realize that despite my cool exterior, my mind is complete mush. And the consequence is: Henry will starve tomorrow.

Wednesday 5:00PM-7:30PM: Pack everyone up in the car and drive all the way back to school to retrieve the much needed items. As an “I am so sorry for ruining everyone’s night,” I treat David and my mom to dinner in the area to break up the long commute in the car. Finally arrive back home and feel like crashing but it is time to get in that quality time with Henry so I postpone fatigue until later.

Thursday 1AM, 4AM: Ah Henry is heading back towards his more reasonable sleep schedule just in time for the end of the school week. Fingers crossed

Thursday 6:30AM-7:10AM: Even the commute this morning is being more cooperative!

Thursday 8AM-12:30PM: Being in school feels more “normal.”  Starting to feel more confident in the classroom and more capable around pumping. Work-Life balance is coming more into focus…for now, I think.

Thursday 12:30PM: Head over the Keurig machine in the faculty room because yesterday’s drama revealed I need a shot of caffeine before I head home and see that someone has left a “pumpkin spice” capsule in the machine. Deliriously excited, I open the cabinet to retrieve one  of these special k-cups only to see that this flavor is non-existent.  Some sneaky, smarty pants brought it in for themselves and now I am incredibly jealous. Left to drink the usual k-cup, I return to my classroom to await the last class of the day.

Thursday 3:00PM: A moment of peace and calm after checking for the 100th time that I have everything I will need when I leave campus. I do not think my nerves could handle another mishap like yesterday. Finally settle into some lesson planning in an attempt to “get ahead” of the weekend pile up.

Thursday 3:30-4:10PM: An uneventful drive home and the first night where alongside snuggling up with our little man and giving him our undivided attention we are also trying to prep dinner (remarkable that this is the first time this week we have to do that!). Thankfully it is taco night.  Not that this isn’t work, but taco night is usually an easy kitchen night!  Definitely thanking “past Melissa” for her smart meal planning for this first week back to teaching.

Thursday 5PM-9PM: Family time to the max!

Friday 1:30AM: Oh my goodness, the little man sleeps for 5 hours without interruptions and now I am sleep drunk from all the extra Zs.

Friday 5:00AM: My alarm and not the little man wakes me up.  Have we finally fallen into some semblance of “normal”?  I don’t want to jinx us but this would be a very very VERY nice routine.  Let’s replicate this again okay, Henry?

Friday 8:00AM-2:15PM: Despite some scheduling mishaps on my part (Need to remember to double check the uploaded homework assignments) the day goes fairly smoothly. It is topped off by a visit from David and Henry to the ice cream social before Henry’s 2 month check-up.

Friday 4:00PM: Henry had his 2  month check-up and vaccines. We all took guesses for his weight and height but we missed the mark. That’s right we all underestimated our little man’s monthly growth. Henry is not 13.11lbs and 24.75in!  He also did not like his vaccines.  His cries were heart-breaking

Friday 5:00PM: Lots and Lots of snuggles all around.

And so it goes, the successful conclusion of our first week. It is amazing how a 4 day work week could feel like it was actually 8 full days of work and running around. Yet,  we all survived and it can only get better from here, right?

going back to school

Tomorrow I go back to school officially. Thankfully it is not a full day of school jammed with classes and new students and new lessons.  That will wait until Tuesday. Rather tomorrow is a day to set up my classroom briefly, meet with a few parents of my advisory, and leave Henry at home for the first time for more than just a Pure Barre Class. Family and friends have asked how am I feeling about this and to be honest I am incredibly conflicted.

Half of me is excited and ready to return. I love being a teacher. Each day the students challenge me to think, grow, and learn and in return I get to work closely with them as they question the world around them and discover history. My co-workers are inspiring men and women who are passionate about their careers, the students, and about having a good time too. It truly is a wonderful place to work and a wonderful place to return to each Fall. Having had my mother here this week, I have been able to prepare lessons, set up class websites, check e-mails, start class blogs, review faculty documents, review class lists, and generally feel “ready” for the first day of school. This has helped keep the typical back to school anxiety dreams away! Professionally, I feel fulfilled in my job which makes going back to it exciting.  I have also spent time tracking Henry’s sleep/wake time and feel good about the schedule I am leaving behind for Mema.  This was a major step is feeling ready to return. Whenever you look up baby schedules (even one that is baby led and flexible) it follows the typical work day of 9AM-5PM which is not the schedule of the working teacher. This new baby schedule for the teaching parent that we have created at least lets me feel as though when I leave Henry’s grandma will have a sense of when to expect certain cues from Henry in order to have as smooth a day as possible (and, I know this is ideal).

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At the same time, this year is so different. The other half of me is drawn inward to my home and family. Henry has turned out to be such a wonderful and amazing addition to our lives. I am afraid that if someone asks me “How are you doing?” on that first day, I will be too fragile to answer without bursting into tears. I know I want to return to work, but I also wish I could just stay home (at the same time!) and raise and love my son full-time. Two feelings I am most conflicted with about leaving Henry are: I don’t want to miss ANYTHING and I want Henry to be more than just okay when I am away. It is not healthy to be the only one to provide Henry with all of his needs, I know. It is important for him to meet others and be cared for by others.  But the idea of missing BIG chunks of his day hurts my heart so much. He grows and changes so much even in a day and I just feel like I am going to be missing out. Oddly, I also feel like I am going to be replaced. For the last 8 weeks, I have been there for everything even if I was just watching David parent, I was still physically there. Now I won’t be there AND someone else will be. What if I no longer can read my son or what if he prefers the care, cuddles, and love of my mom over me?  I am so lucky that my mom, Henry’s mema, will be with him but I still have this silly worry. As I write this, I can see the selfishness of these feelings but I cannot swipe them away. I selfishly want to be home with my baby boy and simultaneously want to be at school teaching and working. Part of me wonders if I had had more time and support in this dynamic if I would feel better prepared to return but our timing wasn’t perfect. And, part of me wonders if anyone would notice if I just tucked him in my backpack and brought him with me!

Tomorrow morning I will probably cry all the way to school but then will be so happy to see my co-workers who have for years shared some much of themselves with me. I feel more emotional now than I did any day of my pregnancy! I just hope that when I come home tomorrow, Henry will have had a good day home with Mema and David and the decision to return to work will feel more and more right as the hours turn into days, weeks, and months back at school.

school days.

Whoa! It has been almost two months since school started.  Perhaps my silence is a testament to the whirlwind that the start of the academic year presents. From back to school meetings, to setting up the physical space, to welcoming students back, each and every day was full, full, FULL. Of course, this is the good kind of busy.  Ironing out the kinks of classroom presentation, connecting with students, and plowing through lesson plans and grading make the start of the school year a sprint.  Each day while I leave exhausted, I also leave satisfied knowing that I am tapping into the part of myself that is excited to learn again among my students and tapping into the creative power of my students. As I sit with a stack of papers next to my desk, I am mindful that while this is the hard part of being a teacher, one by one it will all get done.  As a fifth year teacher, I am amazed by how much is still new and by the subtle ways in which I am more prepared than ever for the daily classroom occurrences.  It has been a busy start to the year, but it has been a good start.  I am looking forward to seeing where my classes go this year as they continue to build their community, challenge the course materials, and create their own content.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 9.39.08 AMJust a little photo of when my student walked in and we realized we were wearing the same outfit!  It was hilarious to connect over fashion in such a literal way.

first day & partner

Today was my first day back in the classroom with students. It always feels good to start using my teacher muscles again. At 7:15AM I felt nervous about my first class. It was as though I had forgotten how to walk and talk at the same time. Feeling stiff and out of place, I began to think about what it must be like to be a new freshman. At least I had some experience at this school and knew familiar faces. Quickly I sought to snap out of myself and begin doing what I love: engaging students, getting to know them, and getting them started on their work. As soon as they were in their seats the “teacher dust” brushed off and I could feel my old self again and it felt great. Watching them collaborate – even briefly – on the first task was invigorating.

Despite the energy of the day, I left school feeling wiped out. Where had all of my stored up energy from the summer gone?  Upon reflection, this wave of fatigue was most likely caused by dehydration. Somehow I had gone the whole day without drinking water!  Crazy how once you are in the zone something as simple as drinking water is forgotten. When I picked up David at the T, I was so thankful that he took over the wheel and immediately turned on his “partner role.” I was completely swept up in his love and care. We arrived home and I settled on the couch equipped with a giant ice water and David cooked up a storm. He prepped and cooked us Thai noodles, which are my favorite! I ate a giant bowl in my pjs. Afterwards, he cleaned up. It was perfect. David could read me when he first got in the car and knew exactly how to take care of me after my first day. Finally after being rehydrated and fed, I was able to share stories from the first day of my fifth year of teaching. While I am still tired (I expect to get a good night of sleep) I look forward so much to tomorrow!

back to school

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It has started. The back to school commercials are in full force. Delighted parents run up and down the aisles of Target filling their carts with folders, pencils, clothes, and backpacks. Happy music plays in the background while their frowning children walk listlessly behind them. Of course, August is still the summer, but with the arrival of August comes the arrival of back to school anxiety dreams for me. These commercials don’t help either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I am so lucky not only to have the summers off to pursue my other interests, spend time with friends and family, and travel, but when I head back into the school year it is to a truly amazing school filled with superb co-workers and dynamic students.  But, even though I do actually work in Edutopia, I still get those pesky anxiety dreams. They are always the same. Imagine:

I arrive back to school to only find out that the schedule I have been following all day is wrong and I am missing all of my classes. Or, I arrive to class only to realize that I have not planned a single lesson and am frozen in front of the students and, of course, I am wearing my yoga pants too!  Or, and this is my favorite kind of anxiety dream, I walk into my class totally unprepared.  I stare blankly at the students who begin to roll their eyes at me and suggest my teaching ignorance, only to fall flat on my face and break a tooth and I am in my yoga pants! AH!  Waking up in a cold sweat, I remind myself that (a) I am such a type A personality that I could never not be prepared for a class and to just relax and (b) I am still 3 weeks away from the start of school and as with every year once I am back it is like riding a bicycle and the teaching muscles will remember what to do and the kids will inspire me and the summer haze will fade into a crisp Fall. And being at school will be the exact place where I am suppose to be.

Dear Summer,

Please go a little bit slower.

Sincerely,

An Anxious Teacher

“Dear Summer,

Please go faster.

Sincerely,

A Crazed Parent” @NikkiMoff

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