…losing people too early seems to be the theme of these current weeks.
Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, this one might make you wish I published it in a Reader’s Digest so your eyes didn’t burn so much from the computer screen’s glare…
I’m trying to decide how I feel about this career choice. There is so much work involved in preparing and creating and deciding and learning all the material that needs to be covered for even one 80 minute period. I spent all weekend crafting my introductory lesson to Macbeth and before I walked out the door on Monday, I told Mom I was afraid that I had too much to cover/expected too much. I was surprised to find we covered everything and more over 70 minutes, leaving 10 minutes of “oh no, what now” ringing in my head.
And it’s not just the preparation, it’s the teaching. It’s a difficult task to comprehend something my self so entirely thoroughly before I teach it so that I can ensure my kids will understand it the way I’ve decided they need to. Again, how I decide. Shakespeare is hardly my second language, so expecting 19 grade 11 students to have a love affair with it themselves is a bold request — so my goal is to simply challenge them to give it a chance. However, remember when your teachers in high school or beyond talked about staring into a sea of glossed over eyes and stunned looks of “what the heck are you talking about”? It’s the truth. High school = a whole other world.
In a week, I’ve learned many things.
I have learned that while one lesson and day might go perfectly according to plan, successful both in delivery and student engagement, the next day might be a fail beyond repair. Then the next day, I won’t even recognize the faces that stare at me in earnest… ready to learn. It’s constantly changing and dynamic and unpredictable… they weren’t kidding when they said to be prepared; and be prepared for anything.
I’m also learning that I can’t take things personally. I am so far off the kids’ priority radar that even if I bomb a lesson in my head, they aren’t the wiser nor will they remember the next day. They have boyfriends, girlfriends, after school job, drama, sports and the playoffs, TV shows, obsessions with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (oh yes!), break ups and make ups to deal with — far more important than Miss Stam whose knees have gone weak and stomach flip-flops when they haven’t been able to answer three questions in a row as my mind races with insecurity. So as I learn that I can’t take things personally, I am quickly learning how much I truly do carry burdens, of all sorts, in my heart. Seems like more lessons than just for teacher me.
I’m learning tricks of the trade — how to be friendly without being friends, what battles to fight and battles to ignore, and the list goes on and on. I have been blessed with a great group of kids who genuinely seem to enjoy me, which has made this a much more enjoyable transition. My 9s, who I get in a week and a half, seem a lot more distant and a lot harder to please or engage, but they are even more concerned with Justin Bieber than my 11s so I am not too worried.
To say I am humbled is an understatement. In fact, as an English teacher, I feel like I should invent a word that describes how I feel since I can’t seem to come up with the right one. High school students make me so happy… they are funny and obnoxious and emotional and thoughtful and careless and innocent while being experienced and almost wholly real. I know, I know, when you think of your own high school experience, you remember the fake parts and the cliques and insecurity or whatever else there is and I know that all exists. But when I am standing there in front of the room and there are 19 people sitting there, waiting to hear what I have to say, trusting me (albeit, not by choice) and respecting me and opening up to me, well, it’s much easier to see high school students for who they are when you’re teaching them, not being their peer. Make sort of sense?
The stories are already piling up, the comments and anecdotes and encounters are too hilarious to attempt to put into words — plus, I don’t want to privatize my blog so we’ll have to just save those for a coffee date one day. I’ve now had two official evaluations. One by a university supervisor and one by my mentor teacher and they both went super well. The things I have to work on are minor, mostly about disciplinary tactics (being a bit more harsh) or waiting a bit longer for them to answer questions but all in all, I think I am doing well.
Learning lots but not excelling — and in so many ways, I am glad I am not. I think humility is a huge, if not the biggest, part of this job. And realizing that it most definitely is not all about me, and I like that.
Going into the first day, I really wondered how it all would go, especially since I was blessed with no anxiety or fear whatsoever. Even though the fear comes and goes and my confidence is fairly shaky, Miss Stam truly seems to fit like a well worn glove already and when I am standing in front of those kids I know I am exactly where I dreamed of being for so long; were I am sure that I am supposed to be. It also feels pretty darn cool to have my kids step away from their groups in the hallway to say “Hey Miss Stam… I can’t wait for class!”
In an e-mail from Megan a number of months back she wrote something that has continually resonated deep within me:
“Life for me is very busy and humbling, I am always learning new things and never excelling at much.”
That is summation of my week thus far. It’s not so much being out of my comfort zone but it’s finding something oddly comforting about feeling entirely out of place. Does that make sense? I am so excited for this challenge although the prep feels insurmountable. I have a pretty good set up — my official start day is Monday and I don’t teach until the last block. I only have 19 kids. The majority are guys so I am a little interested to see how Shakespeare goes over with them. Did I mention how glad I am to teach Shakespeare? There is so much creative liberty I can take with the play, my resources are piling up. All of a sudden I feel like the next five weeks are going to pass in a breath. What’s more, my sponsor teacher has given me no stipulation what-so-ever so I, literally, get to decide this entire thing. So it’s a debate now… unit test or final project? Journals or quizzes? Seriously, I think after the training I have gone through, I feel compelled to go to every single teacher I’ve ever had and give them a high five for all they did.
As for my Social Studies class, I haven’t met them yet but the unit should be pretty decent as well — I am teaching the settlers arrival in Canada. It’s grade 9. Anyway.
Back to Megan’s quote — I am terrified of not excelling. I know that it is a reality but remember awhile back when I posted about being, by nature, a winner and not risking things unless I know I will be 100% successful? Consider this my first conscious step forward in the direction of not having a clue if I will excel or not. But hey, I guess that’s part of the learning right? Either way, it’s comforting and sobering and I am excited for Monday.
Sometimes hope is frightfully quiet. And sometimes anger is fearfully loud. And you’re hoping desperately for rain because it seems so intentionally fitting given the moment and pain and confusion and frustration. But the scariest part is if we openly hope and dream and be vulnerable out loud, that life will beat it out of us and what then? My friend is paralyzed with the news of his mom’s cancer… and I am paralyzed by what it’s doing to him. And in another story, a most-dear family to me, next to my own, suffering their own heartbreak over the last few days. Not only do these moments make hope little less obvious, it makes it oh-so-much-more important.
Anyway. Some things on my heart I guess.
IN other news, check out this vid. Then check out this band. Then thank Chrissy for showing me so I could show you.
Christmas was such a treat this year. It felt like I experienced all four seasons in the last week — leaving a very mild Victoria behind for an even milder Penticton and as we made our way to cold, snowy Alberta, the temperatures outside dropped and my internal temperature rose — I couldn’t wait to meet my nephew. Arriving in Camrose late Wednesday night, Weston was still awake in his Mama’s arms. Let me tell you, he does not disappoint! The next few days were locked in Jes and Mark’s beautiful, cozy home, relaxing and quiet as we spent time sharing and visiting and playing… while Wes went from one set of eager arms to another. I don’t have my camera cord with me so pictures will have to wait but my goodness, I never thought I could love a little person like that. We are blessed.
One of the most entertaining moments was my Mom’s reaction to my Dad’s Christmas gift to her — a Nikon D90 digital camera. For those of you who don’t know, my mom is the lady with the camera attached to her hands but is so in love with her current film Nikon, coupled with the daunting learning curve that comes with going digital, she’s never made the switch. Until now. It was so awesome! My Dad delights in not telling us what he’s buying mom for Christmas so it’s always a treat for everyone — unless you’re one of the kids who helps him with the picking of the gift (in this case, Nate). So I think half the fun for him is watching all of our own jaws drop! AnywaY (that’s for Chrissy), this camera takes the most beautiful pictures and I rarely heard the whirr of the film winding of her old Nikon in the three days I was there. RIP, old friend.
Unfortunately for me, my own beloved toy cost me a pretty penny today so rather than kicking her in the behind, I am blogging about it. Bella, my car, got herself a new water pump, timing belt, and numerous other belts today… much to my chagrin. I noticed a few weeks ago that something was leaking from it. After consulting the men in my life, it was determined that the coolant was the culprit. My Dad and brother in law reminded me that it was last Christmas when Honda told me the water pump had a hole in it. I guess it was only a matter of time… pray that my faith in my Bella is restored, right now I just see a large, inflated dollar sign hovering above her hood. Aww, well. I’ll just go curl up on the couch with my new poetry book and snuggle in with my pyrex dishes… we’re in love already and they aren’t even out of the package.
Other notables: I miss Alberta… the snow and the cold and the frosty cheeks…the fireplace and the company and the memories. I am more than ok with moving back. In fact, I fell in love with Cochrane on our way through it. Fun. PS Jes and Mark — thanks for the awe-some hospitality, I sure missed your company and friendship. Also, I think being in Victoria is much too far from Weston. I don’t know how I could describe him completely so you’ll just have to take my word for it — he’s the most adorable and content and strong little baby I have ever met. His life is going to be so much fun to witness!
As for me, I am back in Penticton and working for the next few days before heading back to the coast. It’ll be pretty quiet as I am home alone (Mom and Jay went to Smithers from AB). But it’ll be nice… I am none too anxious to get back to school — in three short months I will be teaching and I am oddly terrified. Looking back on 2009, I remember saying “this is it. this is going to be my year.” I don’t know exactly what I meant by that, often ideas form on my lips before I even staturate in them, but if my year meant gaining a nephew, graduating with a degree, realizing my massively huge dream of becoming a teacher, and creating relationships to last a lifetime… then my list of resolutions for 2010 might be exactly the same — not items to change, but blessings to hope and be thankful for.
Good friends. I hope that’s one of the most memorable parts of my life — good friends. My favourite friend Jocelyn and her favourite man, Jordie, came over for dinner with me and my other favourite friend, Luke and it was awe-some. I actually can’t say enough about it. I’m always looking for that first moment where Christmas truly begins and coming after the birth of my nephew, last night was the second of those catalysts for me.
There is such a blessing of watching someone bring out the best in another and watching Joce and Jordie be that for each other is so special. Or forever learning more about the person Luke is. And conversation fueled by not seeing each other often, good wine and lots and lots of laughter, makes it hard not to liken the mixture to the sweet taste of eggnog and the coziness of fireplaces and snow buried toes. Christmas is in the air, did you know?
I guess what I mean is that I want to make sure my life is accompanied by good friends, along with everything else that I dream of, live for, desire, or believe in. And I think metaphors that contain anything relating to Christmas rings success in life on a whole other level. Have I ever told you how blessed I am?
(We had lasagna and lava cakes if you were wondering. You can even come next time)
Excuse me while I consider something. Last week-end/week I was up in Smithers for my Uncle Dave’s memorial. I didn’t know what to expect going up there, I am not exactly well versed in this type of pain or grief, most particularly in this family of mine. I was most shocked by how cool his memorial service was. (I am having a hard time finding the proper word for it — I would also say it was neat, humbling, surprising, hard, and anointed) Here’s why: I don’t think there is anything more honouring of someone’s life than watching or knowing what they’ve left behind. To say I learned many things about my Uncle Dave at his memorial would be an understatement to the highest degree — it’s a very real and powerful thing to be reminded of the very best parts about someone. It fascinates me that he lived for an entire lifetime before any of us kids came along. I found myself not wanting the speakers to stop talking about this dear man — there are so many things I don’t know. Neat because I now know this man was much more than an uncle and friend; humbling because the words spoken about him made me want to be that or have that in some parts of my own life; surprising because it wasn’t until we were gathered together that a sea of my own memories, memories that I had been desperate to hold in my hand but somehow were hard to grasp that week, came flooding over me as others shared about Dave; hard because as joy filled as I am knowing exactly where he is, it’s still okay to be sad that my life — our lives — are somehow a little less full now that he’s gone; and anointed because Jesus was truly in that place as evident in the faces of my cousins and aunt whose loss seems so unfair but whose hearts are carried by that faith that God knows exactly what he’s doing.
What will your legacy be? Will it be as staggering as my Uncle Dave’s, where even amidst broken hearts, there is abundant joy in that he touched our lives — making us laugh, teasing us with no remorse, caring about what we had to say, supportive with no reservation, and living with a faith that is to be admired. In my own life, I struggled with trusting Dave simply because every time I got back onto the snowmobile or quad while every instinct of my being was screaming DON’T DO IT, he’d find a way to go so fast, lose control, and dump me in the snow. Yet, he came to or umpired or kept the batting line up for as many balls games I had at Heritage Park as he could. I remember the day I told him I was going to pitch for the very first time (supportive with no reservation), he was so excited — I think he thought I was going to be the next ‘big thing’ in female fastball simply because they actually put me on the mound. I pitched the first inning, and every single batter hit of my first or second pitch. They got five runs in and I thought it wasn’t bad, at least they were crossing the plate. When I came off the field, Uncle Dave checked to see where I was in the batting order. He told me to follow him and I thought (supportive with no reservation) he was going to tell me I was a rockstar. Instead he said “Oh KATE, those pitches are embarrassing! What are you doing out there?” Considering I was 13, and had no formal pitching lessons, I thought I was doing pretty good! He then explained he wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings but that he felt bad that he didn’t show me his tricks before I went out on the field. Uncle Dave grabbed a ball and his glove and showed me for the next 15 minutes, and every other time I was sitting, how to pitch… drop balls, curveballs, whatever else he could come up with. And I proceeded to throw more strikes the rest of that game than I ever had in my shortlived pitching career, with Dave, my biggest (albeit, only) fan in the stands grinning the way we all remember it.
I think that’s what I loved most about him and what his legacy is for me — an unwavering commitment to the people in his life that made someone like me feel accepted, valued, and loved simply by his dedication to helping me or teasing me or being a friend however he could. Uncle Dave made me feel safe and the tragedy of death makes it hard to not beat myself up for not remembering that until now.
In the movie Shall We Dance, Susan Sarandon says this as she’s trying to qualify her understanding of marriage:
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”
Isolating everything from the part about marriage, those words are so powerful here. It’s so difficult, but last week made me want to be such a witness — so that those I am surrounded by don’t go unnoticed, that people are celebrated in this life for exactly who they are what what they bring to it. To not sometimes, but constantly be reminded of the best parts about them so that when they are gone, and our own lives are a little less complete, a little less full, their legacy is exactly where and what it should be — carried on through people who absolutely adored, admired, and loved every part about them. As already so-very-evident of my Uncle Dave. miss you.
As we all are trying to connect some very disconnected thoughts and feelings and emotions in the process, today of all days I found courage and intend to keep faith in some powerful things:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. Jn 16.33
And didn’t You see me cry’n?
And didn’t You hear me call Your name?
Wasn’t it You I gave my heart to?
I wish You’d remember
Where you sat it down
And this is all that I can say right now
And this is all that I can give
I didn’t notice You were standing here
I didn’t know that
That was You holding me
I didn’t notice You were cry’n too
I didn’t know that
That was You washing my feet
And then this came on my playlist:
And the simple reminder that life is fragile and short and passes as quick as the cold breaths in winter’s air. Thank you for the moments we got to have him, but I am grateful for knowing he’s been Yours all along.
Please keep my very dear, funny, sweet, kind and old soul of an Uncle Dave in your thoughts and prayers as liver cancer seems to cast a shadow over his body right now. We don’t know what this means (when do we ever), but keep him, his family, and our family close to your hearts over the next few days. God is bigger than all of this and all of us, so here’s to both the peace and trust we’re determined to find.
Since poetry month failed royally (I bet you missed it, it was one post and just died), I thought I would post this instead:
For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. 1 Corinthians 4.7-8 (the message)
Just in case you needed that as much as I did this morning. Just. In. Case.