Thursday, August 28, 2014

Worth It

I love where I work. It's pretty normal for me to say that because there's never been more than just a few hours at a time, in 15 years, where I thought seriously about working anywhere else.

A great deal of my love comes from the fact that I work with some of the greatest, most caring, most fun people ever. I issued the ALS ice bucket challenge to them, knowing full well that they wouldn't let me down. And they didn't.

No matter who leaves or who stays or who arrives, the spirit is there, the kindness present, the love unwavering. I think it's in the brick and mortar. 

But it's one thing to love your co-workers and another thing to love your work. Where I work, things are rarely easy. We fight battles we didn't sign up for. We feed them breakfast and lunch, but it's their soul that sometimes starves. We are someone for a few, and everyone for too many.

It has been 4 days since the start of a new school year. It has been 4 days since I rested well. It has been 4 days since I began seeing 5:30 twice a day. It has been 4 days since I didn't bring home a worry that I turned over and over and rubbed, worn, in my mind. It has been 4 days, and I'm as tired as if it had been 14.

And then, today, this kid came by my room. I can tell you with full confidence that his deodorant application in class was the very least of our problems last year. I worked with him for a full 4 months before he trusted me. And another 5 months, convincing him that I wasn't lying when I said he was smart or tricking him by promising that "today is a new day". We had as many tears as we had laughs and as many failures and breakdowns as successes. Probably far more. His swings between liking me and hating me were rapid and unpredictable and intense. I never knew where I stood with him because I was always waiting for the bottom to drop out.

This was our conversation today as I stood at my doorway, passing out index cards for our warm-up.

Me: Hey, dude! How are you?
Him: Okay, I guess. Can I have a card?
Me: Only if you write on there, "I miss Coach Naz."
Him: I will. Because it's true.

Then he walked away.

And it was worth it, y'all. It was so very worth it all.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Big Kid Stuff

Tomorrow morning, this little guy will head off to Kindergarten.

It sounds so cliche to say that it feels like yesterday that we were all at the hospital, awaiting his arrival into the world. But it does. Cliches may be tired, but that doesn't mean they're false. And it doesn't mean they don't make my heart ache just the tiniest bit.

The first time I became an aunt, I was 16, living 300 miles away. I missed all of this, and I didn't fully understand or appreciate what I was missing. The first words and first steps. The silly songs and scraped knees. The tiny hands around my fingers becoming bigger hands holding mine. Learning to tell a joke, ride a bike, write your name. I couldn't fathom how quickly Baby Stuff becomes Big Kid Stuff, and I couldn't imagine how much we'd miss that Baby Stuff again.

I didn't know how to be Aunt Deana back then, and I never really caught up. Even now, I sometimes feel that I'm just catching on. I'm thankful that I have friends who make me practice.

As I was driving home tonight, I found myself thinking about tomorrow morning. School will be starting for me as well, and even though it's the 15th first day as a teacher, I still get butterflies. Wondering how the day will go, worrying that I will forget something important, curious what my students will think. Seventh graders in my school come to me almost like Elliott will appear to his teacher: nervous but excited, curious but cautious, hopeful for a good day, a good week, a good year.

I would say that I'm worried, but I know my friend, Courtney has the market cornered on that, and rightfully so. But I am claiming "hopeful" for tomorrow as my wish for Ell is the same wish that I have for all of my students.

I hope:

  • you are more excited than nervous.
  • your dad packs your favorite lunch, maybe even with an extra dessert.
  • you like who you are sitting with.
  • you don't feel too lost.
  • you are kind and others are kind to you.
  • you make a friend.
  • you make lots of friends.
  • you (and your mom) have more smiles than tears.
  • you learn a little something.
  • your teacher makes you feel appreciated and welcome.
  • you go home, bubbling with stories, ready for the next day.

But mostly, Ell, I hope you always know how loved you are -- bigger than the sky and deeper than the ocean -- today, tomorrow, and every day. I can't wait to hear all about this next big adventure.