Saturday, January 2, 2010

Apple Picking on Roads Less Traveled

Reality dawns at 7:30 am on Monday: return to the second half of the school year via a day of Inservice. 

Inservice. For the uninitiated, you may think  teachers get a day to work in our rooms  preparing for the return of patterning feet. (Actually, it will be a stampede of  little feet entering the classroom, combined with  parent-sized feet running in the opposite direction for minivans and freedom.)

But a day working in the room? Doesn't happen. We are subjected to Required Training on all manner of new twists and turns in the curriculum.  

May I just vent a little here? This is my 20th year in the classroom. I consider myself to be a hardworking, diligent teacher who loves her students and gets along well with their parents. I go the extra mile often to ensure that my lessons are creative and engaging. But I am growing weary of the  unnecessary mountains of paperwork and expectations continually dumped on teachers. It is almost like the actual teaching of students becomes the second job that teachers moonlight with. The freedom to create a stimulating classroom is hampered by the continual documenting of every "i" being dotted and every "t" being crossed.

I pulled out these pictures of some of my students to cheer me along to Monday. We made 2010 calendars as Christmas presents for the parents, and these pictures served as the covers. A whole lot of The Happy going on there! Because these little faces and those precious eyes are the reason I love teaching. Not the lesson plans, instructional planning guides, ever-evolving state mandates and continual testing that interferes with classroom time. And  with actually looking into those little eyes.

To quote Robert Frost, sometimes lately I wonder if I am "done with apple picking now." I love teaching, but there are times that I want to cry "uncle" to all the documentation that does not  create effective classroom experiences. 

 One of my favorite, but now retiring columnists, Ellen Goodman published her final piece last week. It has been on my heart a lot since then:

"There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over--and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives.

"It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on rather than out.

"The trick to retiring well may be the trick of living well. It's hard to recognize that life isn't a holding action, but a process. It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along--quite gracefully."

One thing I have realized during this journey through grief is that the plans God had for me before D died are the same plans God has for me now. Those plans did not change: they just don't seem as apparent to me in this fog that invaded my brain on July 13th. 

But I also realize more than most, and more than ever, that life is short. I am passionate about teaching children, but I do not want to spend my life in an environment that chokes the life and fun out of the profession.

 And for the first time, I'm wondering about the "graceful exit" that Ms. Goodman mentions. If it is time to take what I've learned through my years and apply it somewhere else. And to possibly look toward Frost's "road less traveled by". (Oh, English minor: you have served me well, lo these many years!)

Jury's out for now. Thanks for listening to my opening arguments.


Dawn said...

My sentiments when I was teaching 20 years ago in VA - I can only imagine how much worse it must be for current teachers. And, it is why I won't go back to teaching.

I'd love to know what your "road less traveled" plans might include. Writing, I hope!

Blessings upon the rest of your school year and upon you as you make decisions regarding your future. Ponder long.

Buttercup said...

I think about retiring a fair amount. I've been at my present job 16 years -- today! -- and had hoped to retire next summer. Financially that doesn't work anymore, but that would have given me the graceful exit. I'm getting crabby and less flexible to put up with the things that are part of a job you've done a long time.

susan said...

Isn't it a wonderful thing to decide at any age what we want to be 'when we grow up'! To put a lifetime (so far) of experience and study to use in a new and different way. When work becomes a drudgery it is time to reinvent what we do. Sometimes we just need that frustration to rethink our career path. How exciting (along with nerve-racking and mind-boggling)!
We know that you will not make the decision lightly. With His help you will see 2010 as a year of opportunity.

Lynn said...

I worked as a Teacher Assistant for a few years and even then, some 15 yrs ago I realized how much paper work etc. there is for teacher's to take care of. I imagine it has just become more so.

I absolutely love the pictures, what fun!! Your students and their parents are so blessed by you and you dedication to them!

Not sure what retirement will look like for me. Financially I might still need to be working at 80!! But I do wish I could work part time rather than full time. So many other things I'd like to do! This is my 21 year of working away from home after spending time raising my children and working on our ranch; time for a break:-)!!!

Valinda said...

Oh, I loved that you included Ellen Goodman's piece. So powerful!