Monday, January 19, 2015

Hard Conversations

Since I started teaching in the fall of 2007, I've had one group of 3rd graders, one group of 2nd graders, three groups of kinders, and I'm on my fourth group of 4th graders.  If you do the math that's an extra group of kids, but I'll explain that in a moment.  It doesn't really matter the age of my students, sometimes the fact that I have a life outside of teaching seems to seep into the classroom.  Leading to some of the most difficult conversations I've had to have be with wide eyed kids younger than 10.

This past week, I ended an email to one of my class moms with "I was more human than I like to be."  You see after lunch that day, I found out via text message that my grandma, the one who was my babysitter from infancy to 3 or 4, the one I told about my future stepson before my parents, the one that shared my love for chocolate with, had taken her last breath.  And while I knew it was coming, I didn't expect to find out then or like that.  I laid my head on my kidney shaped table and sobbed.  My kids were wonderful, and I haven't heard so many stories of empathy about dogs dying, cats dying, hamsters dying in all my other days teaching combined.

I've had to tell two classes of five year olds there was a baby in my belly.  The questions that ensued after the fact are always innocent, but enough to make this conservative girl blush.  The second year in a row there was a baby in my belly, my absolute favorite was, "How did you get a baby back in your belly SO fast?!" He had a baby sister the same age as Reagan at home, and I think he really feared his mom was going to get another baby in her belly fast too.

I had to share that my dear assistant had lost her mother with the third class of kindergartners.  I always worry that sharing that kind of news with really small children will scare them.  I don't want them to be scared that their moms are going to die, and as I told them her mother was really elderly, I still got all teary.  My assistant was so close with her mom that my heart literally broke for her.  That class was so concerned they made cards to cheer her up.  One little boy drew him and Mrs. Hagee on his tractor, because when he felt sad he told me, "nothing is better than a ride around the farm."

The hardest conversation I've ever had to have came my third year teaching.  I left a group of 27 fourth graders behind.  In 2009 I got married and moved an hour away from my school.  It was too hard being a new wife and stepmom.  Driving that distance to a pretty demanding school, was just too much.  When a second grade opening popped up nearby, I sent in my resume, was called to interview, and was offered the job the same day.  I couldn't not take it.  It didn't make sense.  But as I stood up in front of a class of below grade level reading, free and reduced lunch eating, run down apartment living nine year olds and told them, it didn't make sense to them.  I may have cried more that night than I did this week after I got the news of my Nana's death.  I can't express how much I love those Ramseur kids.  I always tell David if we move back, I want to work there.  He thinks I'm crazy.  He saw how difficult it was, but there's nothing quite as rewarding as working with kids who NEED you.  A lot of my Ramseur babies needed the teachers there to love them.

I hope that it will be quite a while before I have to have another hard conversation with my school kids.  Honestly, I really don't like admitting in my professional life I'm human at all.  It's really tiring, but I always end up learning as much from the kids as they learn from me. And I have learned that letting the kids know about your life, learning about theirs, building relationships, is what makes a classroom community warm, successful, and inviting.  So, while I'm not convinced I ever have quite the right words when I need them, I'm grateful to work in an environment where being human is part of the job, where building relationships is one of the requirements, and having those tough conversations happens only from time to time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Right now...

Nearly four years ago I started this blog to chronicle my new adventures being a mom.  Truthfully, it was an incredibly lonely time.  Being a new momma, no matter how rewarding, no matter all the precious baby snuggles you get, is isolating.  You have a tiny person depending on you for everything, you need to watch her breathe, because heaven knows she may need you to do that too, and your home no longer feels like your home.  It's full of devices that you're not even sure you know what to do with, but the baby registry experts said you needed them.

Over the course of the past few years, I've realized I'm not alone.  I've watched a lot of my friends welcome new little lives in the world.  They all seemed to transition into their roles more effortlessly than I did, but we've shed tears together.  We've prayed a lot of the same prayers.  We've joked about jumping and peeing in our pants.  Who knew that would ever be funny?

Tonight I was laying in bed trying to sleep.  David was already snoring.  Anna and Reagan finally tuckered out much later than their usual bedtime. And I lay there feeling quite alone.  My Nana went to square dance in the sky beside my Papa Jack today. Despite the fact I just saw her a little over two weeks ago, and that I've been pretty much constantly connected to my family via iMessage, I feel that same feeling of isolation I did as a new momma.  It's not that people I know aren't going through similar situations, it's not like I'm being left out, it's just a feeling. An incredibly exhaustive feeling.  

I was thinking about my childhood.  Each summer I'd spend a week at my grandparents house.  Nana gave the worst baths ever.  I swear she scrubbed us with Brillo pads.  She always let us have dessert.  Christmases had the most presents and the most beautiful tree at her house.  She and my Papa fought a lot, they were loud, they laughed a lot too.  We played cards.  I was the princess of Rummy.  We went camping in a camper with air conditioner (the only way I ever want to camp).  We roasted marshmallows.  They took me to Catholic church for the first time.  It was a little strange to the Southern Baptist raised little girl I was.  Nana didn't have the best way with words.  She didn't care.  She told my sister her prom dress looked like something Queen Latifah would wear.  She totally meant it as a compliment.  When Anna was born, she told my mom I didn't spell Anna correctly and that if it was A-N-N-A, we should pronounce it Anna (think Frozen).  I, being pretty hormonal and fiesty, told my mom if Nana called my child Ah-nah, then I was just going to have to call her Non-uh instead of Nana (I'm the oldest grandchild and I called her Nana first).  She said on Christmas this year my girls (one of whom is in <10% for weight) were pretty heavy for little girls.  Honestly, she was probably weaker than she cared to admit., but I just had to smile.  That was just her. 

I'm so grateful that almost near 30 years I got to know and love my grandmother--that's a lot longer than a lot of people get to know and love theirs.  There's a feeling that doesn't make me feel lonely at all. No mistaking I'll miss Nana, but I have lots of silly, funny, loving, horrible bathing experiences to tell Reagan and Anna about.