When we discovered that our baby boy was due mid-December of last year, I took a small sigh of relief thinking I would at least make it to Christmas break and have half of the school year with my new group of 4th graders. As most things go, I didn’t quite make it to Christmas; Everett was born on November 30 and as much as I truly enjoy my teaching vocation, I haven’t looked back since that Thursday evening when I left school and didn’t return the following day.
I have been lucky enough to stay home with my almost 6-month-old son since he was born and during these months, though I haven’t been immune to the time passing that has caused my once-tiny newborn to grow up so quickly, I have skillfully (and consciously) ignored the time passing that has been the rest of the school year. But now, it is the end of May, and I really can’t afford to ignore the classroom anymore. It’s time to shift my thinking from mom to teacher and return to a job that I love.
Returning to the classroom
Going back and getting into the swing of things has been the hardest part. It’s the same feeling as returning to work or “reality” after a long vacation. It takes a certain amount of focus and motivation to shake off the dissonance that has settled in and move my mind back toward “school talk.” The first time I returned to our building in teacher capacity, (I had visited earlier in the year so my colleagues could meet Everett) I felt as if it were my first day. I was nervous and wary. It was as if I were new again, and not in a good way. Though I was welcomed with hugs and warm greetings from students and teachers alike, it took the entire morning for me to feel like a teacher again. I left with a few resources to peruse in the coming weeks, a bit more confident and a shred more prepared to spend my summer getting ready for the start of school in August.
Shifting to 6th
I am not only returning after a lengthy leave, but also shifting to a new grade level. Having taught 4th grade for 3 years, I will be one of two 6th grade homeroom teachers and will teach 6th grade ILA and possibly 7th grade ILA as well. This quite possibly has me more nervous and scared than returning to school in itself. Our “upper grade” (5-8) teachers are rock stars: they are smart and driven and dedicated to their students. They mean business. (Who am I kidding–ALL of our teachers are incredible.) That’s not to say I’m not all those things, but I certainly feel as if I am on an audition. Can she hack it on the “upper floor?” I’m asking myself the same question.
The goal is to leave no doubt, so I’m in full school mode now (and still in full Mom mode, too.) I’ve been researching and reading new books to possibly use in my LA classes; I’ve been planning units and projects, jotting down ideas for bulletin boards and ways to use the classroom set of tablets we will have next year. I’ve slowly but surely started talking to my colleagues about my ideas, getting feedback and building on their suggestions. I’ve been dusting the cobwebs from the grammar corners of my brain and relearning limiting adjectives and sentence diagrams. In my zest to rejoin my educator community, I’ve even applied to be a DEN Star teacher. (What am I thinking?)
Perhaps the most important thing I have done is rejoin my PLN on Twitter. After a long hiatus, I reinstalled the app on my phone, requested a password reminder, and jumped back into the stream. I was immediately reminded why this form of DIY PD is absolutely invaluable; within minutes I had bookmarked articles, favorited Tweets containing ideas that piqued my interest or sparked a new thought, followed more teachers, administrators, and educational professionals, and felt more welcomed back to the teaching community than I had in a while. In days, I had connected with some 6th grade teachers and even resurrected #6thchat with a fellow 6th grade teacher (@aleixa–give her a follow; she is brilliant and dedicated to giving the best to her students.)
Now comes the really hard part. The part where I have to keep going. There are moments, even entire days (or weeks, I’ll admit) when staying home and reading Pig Kahuna and every Eric Carle book, ever, and singing Itsy, Bitsy Spider 47 times to Everett sounds infinitely more enticing than the planning and prepping and grading. But, each day gets a bit easier to accept the transition. I find myself growing incredibly enthusiastic and excited when I am connecting to my teacher-friends on Twitter or a new idea surfaces. I am pushing myself to try new things and return to some forgotten ones (like this blog.) I can’t do it alone, though, and I am counting on my PLN for support and to continue sharing all of those brilliant ideas that get me thinking about what new and exciting things I can do in my classroom. I tweet as @stephpbader if you’re interested in learning with me.
I look forward to the new learning experiences I will encounter as I continue my path to becoming a better teacher. And the joy I feel each time I delve into the ed world lets me know that I really am ready.
“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” -Carl Bard
And I intend to do just that.