Joy

 The last weeks have been a whirlwind. I’ve made it through the initial days of “here’s middle school!” and “here are your classes!” and “here are the rules” and “oh, by the way, here’s a laptop and some assignments!” My students have started to settle in and reveal more by their actions than they perhaps realize – some of it wonderful, some of it challenging, some of it mystifying, and all of it human.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be more to do, more things to finish and compile, a better way to do almost everything…AND most of that will have to wait. I have something of a map, am working on filling in more details, and each moment I spend thinking on my feet brings insights into both myself and the content I am approaching – suggestions for meaningful ways to teach grammar welcome! I’m doing everything I can to try to stay organized enough to remember what worked – and what didn’t – so that next year I can try it better. One of the magical things about teaching is that there really isn’t a perfect way to do it – even when you change from the year before, there will always be a different group of individuals in front of you – and that might even happen between the first half of a class before B-lunch and the second half after!

 Every day there is something that delights me, something that surprises me, something that just is inexplicable because it is done by a middle schooler, and a new level of awareness I reach about how little I know about my students while I am simultaneously aware of exactly who is having a tough day and who needs to move and who is struggling silently. I have a feeling that trend will continue.

I’m humbled by the amount of muddling I’ll have to do this year while I figure what exactly it is I am teaching, and I am trying my hardest to remember how it went so that I can make it better. The changes I make on the fly have worked so far, and they would be even better if I could finesse them. I also catch myself having to frequently define my speaking vocabulary and re-select words to make sure that my students understand!
 After a hectic week that involved curriculum night  – meeting parents and families of students – a professional development half-day, and more than a little thinking on my feet as we begin to dive into the deeper learning and the start of grading, my brain was whirring. Somewhere, I must’ve known I would need space – last weekend I signed up for a half marathon on the Middle Fork Trail in North Bend.
I went with few expectations. The last few races I’ve done have been hot, I haven’t managed to eat enough during them (a whole other strategy to learn for trail success!), and though I’ve found calm during them, they’ve been a struggle. Yesterday was different.
It was joyful.
Pure, simple, unbridled joy. The entire race, I could not wipe the smile from my face. Maybe it was the ridiculous bright blue striped knee socks, maybe it was the cool fall morning and exquisite Cascade ridge-line and pristine mossy woods, baffling boulder fields and mud and dirt of the trail…maybe it was just the calm sense that I was in exactly the place I needed to be.
I ran almost the entire race alone, sans a few brief interactions with my fellow racers either to pass or be passed – always positive moments. I heard the same words of an old song in my head for the entire race – even as I wiped out in the dirt and rolled an ankle on my way back – “lay down your burden – I will carry you.”
I am carrying the weight of my students. And I am not doing it alone.
I am carrying myself with a new confidence. And I can not do it alone.
I am constantly humbled by the magnificence in this world and its vastness, by the magnitude of the task of teaching.
I need joy in the same way my students do, and I will hold this moment for a long, long time.
I can’t wait for more.

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