Tag Archives: teaching

Finding Balance

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What is balance?  Where has it gone, and did we ever have it to begin with?

I struggle daily to find balance in my life.  Balance between home and work, balance between what I give of myself and what’s left behind once I do.  The struggle is real to find the right amount of effort for each compartment of my life.  And that’s how I cope with issues – I compartmentalize my life.  Little sections of family, work, friends, church.  Each section is important but as odd as it may seem, they rarely mesh.

My daily battle is somehow equalizing the compartments, and I have to honestly say, there are times when some of my compartments are totally ignored.  There are days when one or two areas devour the other parts of my life.  Can you guess which areas those are?  I bet the same ones you struggle with, too.

As with many jobs, mine tends to devour.  If I’d agree to what it wants from me, I could work from dawn to bedtime every day.  If I would just give in and let it have me, I would eat, breathe and sleep work.  Many people I work with do and have.  They work incredibly long hours, every day of the week, just trying to somehow keep their heads above water.

Here’s the thing, I refuse to let any compartment of my life completely rule over the others in a negative way.  Especially work.  I work my tail off while I’m there, but I’ve learned the hard way that I must have downtime at home.  If I don’t, my family and home life suffers.  My children suffered when they were younger because work zapped me so fully and completely that they were left with a grumpy momma.  I learned a little too late that if there’s no downtown, there’s no energy for friends or church or anything else.

So where’s the balance?  How can teachers find balance in a system that demands more every year, sometimes every month or week?  How can school employees (because our principal, secretaries and staff work just as long if not longer than we do) continue at this pace?  I know my body and psyche and I know that this pace can destroy my gut.  It can wreck nerves and fray the senses.  It can change once kind, jovial humans into fussy, irritated grumps.

How can we fix it?  What can teachers do to regulate their time, to find a balance that keeps them healthy while providing all that is expected?  I wish I knew all the answers.  I wish I had a magic wand.

Here is what I do know (and granted, it’s not much):

  1. Don’t be afraid to leave work when your work day is over.  If the work is still there, guess what?  It will still be there in the morning.  The world will not have stopped turning and somehow, you’ll get it done the next day.
  2. Your children and spouse come first.  Period.  End of story.
  3. God gave us all a job to do on this earth, but I believe we’re still expected to take care of our internal selves.  If we don’t care for the tender parts of our soul, no one else will.  We have to ‘tend the garden’ of patience, love, kindness.  If we ignore them, weeds will take over.
  4. “Don’t sweat the small things” – man, nothing is more truer than that statement.  Let the little stuff go.  Out the door, out of your mind, out of your gut where it will turn into an ulcer the size of the moon if you’re not careful.
  5. When you get tired, STOP!  Stop, walk, run away from the building.  Go home, rest, cook, read, zone out in the recliner.  Just stop.
  6. Be kind.  Smile at somebody at least once a day.  Give a compliment.
  7. Sleep is awesome.  Downright magical, really.
  8. Share the good – like when you figure out this balance thing.  When you figure out the answer, let the rest of us know.
  9. Never forget the reason most of us are there.  I have heard so many teachers say over the years, “If I didn’t love the kids so much, I’d be gone.”  I guarantee you, every teacher in the world has thought that.  I know I have.  Sometimes, when I slow down enough to really look at my students, to look into their eyes and see the churning of their minds, I remember.  I remember that these little people are just little people.  They need us to love them with all we’ve got.  THEY are what keep me there.

Told you it wasn’t much, but it’s all my weary, work compartment can manage.  And I’m serious about number 8.  There has to be an answer to balancing our lives, to keeping our focus on what is real and important.  I’m expecting some really smart educator to figure it out.  That’s what we’re good at, by the way.  That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

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Back to School

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It’s that time again.  Are you ready?  Am I?  Most definitely not…not today anyway, but I’ll get there.  It’s time to begin another school year, to meet new students, to try and be the best teacher I can be.  Some years it’s easy, some not so much.  And honestly, I’m struggling a wee bit.  It has nothing to do with school (except for the getting up early part) and way more to do with the fact that I’m heading off to school alone this year.

For the first time in sixteen years, I have no child starting the school year with me.  No babies to pick out new outfits for, no new backpacks, no new tennis shoes.  Since Kindergarten, I’ve always taken their pictures on the first day of school and then meticulously put them in their scrapbooks.  I’ve always gone school supply shopping for them, picked out snacks, dreaded the homework, and prayed hard for them each day when I passed the high school.  This year, it’s just me.  And like the big goofball I am, I’m a little sad about it.

Hunter starting Kindergarten.  The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Hunter starting Kindergarten. The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Trey, first grade - reading to his daddy.

Trey, first grade – reading to his daddy.

Is it possible to be thrilled they’re both going to college at the end of the month and still be sad they’re growing up?  Yes, that’s me.  And is it unreasonable to ache for your little babies even while you beam at your semi-adult children?  If it is, then that’s me too.

Here’s what I figure:  I spent sixteen years of my life getting my children through school (and the last three, college), so…is it an unreasonable possibility that I should be finished with school, too?  Seems fair to me!  And what if I get them both through college?  Then that’s the bonus round with a big retirement coming right after it!  Right??  Right??

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack.  Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack. Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Luckily for me, I’m going to have a room full of little ones to love me when I get to school next week.  I know they’ll ease the missing and ease the sadness.  That’s such a wonderful perk to my job.  Just today, I got hugs from a prior student and a boy I’m having this year.  There are not many jobs where hugs find you everywhere you go.

I’m also lucky to live in a county where freedom and faith still find you on a warm Saturday.  This morning, people from our community gathered to pray for the upcoming school year.  People from all denominations and different parts of the county gathered at the courthouse before heading out to individual schools.  It was pretty amazing, and I know I felt blessings all around me.  My beloved Mrs. Marsha, the kindest cafeteria worker and person in the world, said, “Did you see the birds and butterflies circling our building while we were walking?”  They were there, we weren’t alone…  What a wonderful reminder that even when I feel sad and alone as I head off to school, I’m not.  I’m not alone at all.

Another One Bites The Dust

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Another week of school is behind us.  Another week of going as fast as a body can go, of planning, planning, planning…meetings, meetings, meetings.

A week of little ones who really need to pee…a lot.  A week of sleepy six-year olds.  A week of I miss my momma and my belly is growling.  A week of can we go home after math?  (And of course my answer is a resounding YES!)

Because I’m tired, too.  And I’m getting older and I have to pee a lot, too.  By three o’clock, my belly is growling loud enough for the neighbors to hear, and even though my momma has been gone for eight years, I want my momma, too.  I want her to hug me and tell me that it’s all going to be all right.

The thing is…I’m NOT tired of the six-years olds.  They are the only thing that keeps me going back to work.  Their hugs make me feel better.  Their smiles are my life-line, my floatation device when I’m drowning in bureaucratic FLUFF (to use a much nicer word than what I’m thinking).

Teaching is a changing profession.  We are steered by Common Core now…a changing of what we teach and more importantly, how we teach it.  For a teacher starting her twentieth year, that is a hard pill to swallow.  Was everything I was doing before wrong, not good enough?  The answer is no, but it still has to change.

So…this week I’m trying, by golly, I’m trying.  I’m giving this ridiculously long comprehension test to, let me remind you, six-year olds, and on question number one, what should occur?  A nose bleed from hell.  Thankfully not from my nose.  I’m telling you…this poor boy’s nose began to gush blood in every direction.  I scoot him down the hall to the nurse…he comes back on question five…and proceeds to sprinkle blood over at least twenty tissues for the remainder of the thirty question test.

That’s on top of all the other needs of my kids…the other nineteen who need help, too.

Here’s my dare to any educational leader from the nation’s capital or our state’s capital: come spend one day in my room and try to do it all.  Be their teacher, their nurse, their stand-in mother’s when they miss their own.  Be it all and raise your test scores, dang it.  And if you really want a taste, I’ll triple dog dare you to stay for a whole week!

Don’t judge me by a number, a number that doesn’t in any way reflect what is truly going on in my room from minute to minute, day to day.  That’s what makes me tired and overwhelmed and simply befuddled at how to move forward.

That being said, I can still think back on my week and smile.  Imagine this if you can…everyone’s eating snacks (because once again, their bellies are growling), and they’re smiling and munching and whispering to their neighbors, when suddenly two little ones rush to my desk.  One is ready to tattle, the other is in a panic, already trying to explain before the other one can sufficiently tell on him.  They’re both talking at the same time, really fast and really loud.  Finally, I hear, “His glue stick is in his water bottle.”  Sure enough, ‘somehow’ he’d managed to drop his glue stick down into his water bottle and couldn’t get it out.  I shooed the little girl away and just looked at the stricken boy.  I asked him, “What are you going to do now?”  He shrugged, “Don’t know, Mrs. Rackley, but I’ve gotta have that glue stick back and I’m still thirsty.”

We saved the glue stick, and he got his water from the fountain instead.

Mercy.  Say a prayer for your child’s teacher tonight.  They need it!

School’s Out!

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Another school year has come to an end, and I can’t help but be thankful.  What a year it’s been.  Long and trying and demanding in ways teaching has never been before.  Today is my first day at home and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.  I’m completely bushed.  But in a day or two or three, reality will set in that I’m off for several weeks and a permanent smile will cover my face.

One of my little fellows said, “Mrs. Rackley, I’m happy and sad all at the same time.”  It was our last day together, and his simple words brought tears to my eyes.  It was nothing but pure, the words that slipped from his lips, and in that moment I felt just as he did.  This little boy had become one of my children over the past 180 days.  They all do, even the ones that make you want to pull your hair out.  Somehow, they become your kids not just your students.  For eight hours a day, they become your responsibility – yours to manage, love, teach, nurse, train, coddle when necessary, discipline when needed.  It’s exhausting but it’s also fulfilling.  When God asks me one day what I did with my life, I will be able to say I tried my best to love and guide children.

While I’m waiting for reality to set in, that yes, thank you Lord, I truly am off for the summer, a little voice in the back of my brain is whispering.  It’s excited, it’s merrily jumping up and down waiting for me to acknowledge it.  The voice chants, “Write, write, write!  You’ll have more time to write.”  And another voice squirms as it beckons, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!  Let’s hit the road.  Let’s travel and see and hear and breathe in something different for just a little while!”

I plan to listen to those voices very soon – just give me a day or two impatient ones!  Soon I’ll be ready to write and dream and hit the road running.  Summer is here!

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