Sunday, August 25, 2013

Make It Work

You  remember the struggle I endured yesterday and Friday, no?

Here's the Before: Day 2 pictures from Saturday.  I didn't take any on Friday because it was too depressing and overwhelming.
This is Day #2. By this point, I'd already done about 3 hours of "cleaning".

This is just some of the trash and recycling.
Much of it was totally unused.
I battled mightily the capitalist, wasteful American guilt.

The aforementioned V-8.  I mean, for real.

Bookshelves, moved courtesy of my work brothers.

Built-ins: about 2.5 hours in. Previously engulfed in furniture and binders.

Reading shelves in background were finally filled.
But I was dumbfounded as to what I could accomplish on Sunday.
I went to dinner with my best life friends last night.  Although I was exhausted, they just kept telling me how different my outlook and attitude about the start of school was (for the better).  In years past, I've been excited to meet my students, close our door, and spend time getting to know each other -- but not necessarily for all of the other "stuff" that would become an emotional sinkhole.  They offered to come help me in my room in the morning, but being who I am, I told them "thanks, but I'll be okay."

And being who they are, they didn't believe me, and they showed up anyway.

It was kind of a full-circle moment.  Heather and I began at Nichols JH together 14 years ago, and Laurie helped us both move in to our classrooms that year.  Now, it's a new year in so many different ways, and although we are all in very different places now, it was comforting to have the familiar with me today.

My goal today was to have a "functional" classroom.  I hoped for a little flair, but, as usual, those girls totally surpassed all expectations.  The pictures just don't even do it justice. Not by a mile.
My desk.  This is the cleanest it will be all year. Enjoy it.
Special shout-out to Al and Taylor Fratina who know how fresh flowers cheer me up.

The area behind my desk.  Still a few personal touches to add,
but I'm pretty impressed.

The sheetrock monstrosity became an accent wall witha little wrapping paper and stapling.
The stage is still there, but now it's the home of the "Group of the Week".
The stage also has a hole in it.  I placed a crate over it as a hazard prevention.
You're welcome, AISD.

Shelves and built-in. 

Classroom library.  I still have about 250 books to mark, cover, and inventory.
Anyone have an extra bookshelf?

This will be our reading goal board, but for now, it's enough just to be decorated.

Lights off.  Lanterns and lamps on.
I detest fluorescent lighting.

The hanging of the Chinese lanterns was enough to make me shed tears of joy.
They're pretty, but they're a pain.

Another bulletin board.  Again, decorated.  Again, relieved.

Built-in organized. Supplies hidden away.

My door needs some more work.
Creating for that tonight.
I'm reading "Fire and Ash" btw, and, no, I'm not getting rid of Coach Naz.

My door signs.  
And a new change in the attitude chart.

Yep.  They blew in and started posting and hanging and straightening and cleaning, and we didn't stop for 5 hours.  It was like every organizational, home makeover, reality tv show all rolled into one.  We even had a "make it work" Tim Gunn moment.  

Even Heather's 6 year-old son, Marcus, pitched in.  He sharpened pencils for every student tomorrow "in case they forget theirs" and put one on each desk.  Little does he know how correct he could be.

Those 3 took such a load off my shoulders today.  They made other people jealous and totally impressed one of my new team teachers who gave them all the credit. "You couldn't have done anything with that chaos yesterday!"  Thanks, Justin.  And people should be jealous.  I've said before that I've been blessed with the world's most amazing friends.  Everyone should have them, but they can't.  I need them too much.


The past week has been a struggle.  It has.  But when I put it in perspective against the last year, the two aren't even in the same league.  On the way home this evening, I started to think about all of it together.  In a way, I'm okay with changing rooms.  It's a ton of work, but maybe I needed that fresh start.  When I wasn't sure if I was going or staying last year, I took the opportunity to purge all of the things and material cluttering up my classroom and my life.  It was nice to unpack only the good things in this room.

There have been times this summer that people have asked me if I'm happy that I was asked to stay at Nichols.  My most honest answer at those times was, "I think so".  It was hard to be sure about something so unsure.  I still struggle with it, and I know I'm not the only one.  Last year was, by far, my most challenging year as a teacher, and it wasn't for any reason I'd ever encountered before.  I felt so distressed and guilty that I couldn't see past this summer.  I couldn't imagine what would occur to make the changes necessary.  I truly believe that those of us who stayed could use a little counseling; you can often read the worry on our faces as we try to make sense of everything that's happened since last January.  In fact, that's one of the ways I wound up typing at you people every day.

And while I feel really good about the changes that are happening -- better than I have in a long time -- I still see my doubt sneaking into my mind in even the smallest ways.  This afternoon, I introduced Laurie to my new principal.  In the conversation I said, "Even if this doesn't work, we went down swinging".  I didn't mean to sound negative, but rather to say that we are going to give it our best fight.  At that, she turned my words and said, "This is going to work.  It has to.  We have nothing else to do but build."  And she's right.  I have to stop worrying about what could happen at the end of the year before this one has begun.  I have to put my faith in both strangers and my friends, and I have to let go of the "ifs" and embrace the "wills".

For 13 years, I always wore a horseshoe pendant during my volleyball and basketball games I coached. I'm a firmly superstitious person, and I also appreciate the heck out of tradition so there were few times I was ever without it.  When I was most nervous -- before a big game or important freethrows or during an injury -- I would touch it and whisper a little positive energy into the Universe.  It didn't always work in the game, but it always calmed me down.  It became my touchstone.  Last year,  I wore it every day and, during the moment of silence, I would touch it and say a prayer for our school.  I took it off on the last day of school, and I didn't wear it all summer until Tuesday.  That morning, I reached up to touch it in my nervous, slightly obsessive way, before the training with our rival school began.  And, I kid you not, it was gone.  My chain was still around my neck, but the pendant was gone.  I looked all over the floor, in my car, and in my bathroom when I got home.  I couldn't find it anywhere.  It took everything I had not to fall apart about such a silly little thing I'd bought for less than $5.00 at Sam Moon, but for an English teacher who can find symbolism in any old thing, it was pretty devastating.

So tonight, as I drove home and thought about how to change my words to match my attitude, I stopped to buy some replacement glass for a picture frame in my fancy new classroom.  As I browsed the aisles, something caught my eye.  There, in the midst of a row of charms was my new horseshoe.  And just above it?  This. I kid you not.

You don't need an English degree to see this one, folks.

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