Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 17 2012

Sweet Surrendor

This week, I was blessed with unsolicited advice in a manner so candid it was teasing. It’s ridiculous in it’s simplicity and honesty and is so blatantly obvious in the way best advice always is,

“You need to relax.”

Oh, do I? With the whole of the nation’s children resting on my decisions today? With state tests? With a leadership meeting, a faculty meeting, a grade level meeting, a special ed meeting? With planning that has to differentiate for kids from second to eleventh grade reading levels? With a completely different cultural context than I was raised in, with eternal questions, with behavior problems and a stack of paperwork and a paper jam and everything in disarray? A parent meeting? A dad I haven’t talked to in six weeks?

Well, yes. That’s exactly what I need to do.

On Sunday we had our standard family dinner. It’s a social mandate that all six of us are there every week, always. This week I didn’t have the grading done I wanted. Didn’t have the planning done I wanted. Didn’t, really, have anything done. But when our local guest arrived and the food started cooking I surrendered.

I can’t explain how many times I’ve told everyone around me to take it one day at a time, to focus on the task at hand, to have faith, to breathe. This week, for what feels like the first time in … well, in a very long time, I am trying to relax.

My lessons have been calm and remarkably productive.

My students have given me recurring swells of pride. Are they acting different, or am I more able to notice? Am I more apt to celebrate?

October is notoriously horrendous for teachers, but that hasn’t hit. This week I wore my hair down, literally, for a full day for the first time. This week I was greeted by gifts from students and a proposal for a school-wide recycling contest from a sixth grader. This week I got my first sub note of praise. This week I was calm and spoke less at leadership team. This week I ran through cotton fields at sunset and had long conversations while sitting on my kitchen floor.

Happiness isn’t fragile right now. It’s a given.

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