Meant to Shine

We are all meant to shine, as children do. Marianne Williamson

Ringing January 30, 2010

Filed under: Real Life — Kelly @ 7:19 PM

So last week, I started to notice a ringing in my ears. That wouldn’t go away. And got worse at night. Tinnitus. People with hearing loss are vulnerable (Beethoven had it, Bono has it). Usually noise-related hearing loss precipitates the ringing, but people with congenital hearing loss (like me) can also get it. 

 I have experienced ringing in my ears before, but it always went away and didn’t really bother me to the extent I was distracted.It is becoming a major problem for me. I find myself struggling to think of what I want to say, and I keep getting tongue-tied, which is not normal for me.

My head hurts a little, and it feels like there is a lot of pressure in my ears. I had a parent-teacher conference with a mom who is also an ENT, and she suggested taking Sudafed and using Affrin. It could be that I have fluid on my ears which is causing problems with my eardrum. Lord, I hope it’s just fluid that will go away sooner or later (sooner, please!!!)

I know it’s not the worst thing to happen, but I am really scared about the possibility that this ringing won’t go away.


Solace January 17, 2010

Filed under: New Beginnings — Kelly @ 12:11 PM
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I just reread the entries since I started blogging last Sunday. What a difference a week makes.

Last Sunday, I was full of hope for my future, anticipating with joy the changes I would make to lead a more fulfilled life. While I don’t feel as mentally/physically/emotionally drained by the prospect of adding “value” to my job next year, I still feel like I lost some of the wind in my sails. My whole goal these past two years has been to work less and enjoy my own life more! It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the concept of working more – literally – at school, not just because I “want to” but because it’s part of my job description.

I suppose with better money management (stop paying the monthly memberships to Weight Watchers/Netflix/Graboid if I never use them!!!), it might feel like I am earning more after a couple of years. (Of course, as soon as I pay off the special assessment fee for the condo association, they will probably raise the monthly HOA fee, thereby negating any “raise” I will have earned…!)

I guess that working extra for no pay all these years has made me tend toward martyrdom (and a “glass half empty” perspective.) I know I don’t get paid what I’m worth and that I am waaaaaaaay over-qualified for what I do. I also know I am lucky to work where I do. It’s just that I finally jumped on the “work smarter, not harder” bandwagon, and I don’t want to get off yet!!!

So, as to the solace. I am keeping up with the housekeeping, and that is making a huge difference. I didn’t spend yesterday morning cleaning up all of my mess from the week. All I had to do was a little laundry, change the sheets, run the dishwasher, and clean up the kitchen! So minimal! My mom said it’s like “found” time, and it truly is. I was able to read half of my book club book (The Help – so far, so good!) and go to book club on Thursday night without feeling like I had left a tornado in my wake.

I am also finding solace in decorating blogs/inspiration/online shopping/envisioning a well-put-together home. The online shopping may not be good for my pocket-book, it is good for my bottom line – I’m not eating as much! And I am really seeking out bargains, like waiting for Target to discount the large apothecary jar I have my eye on (I purchased the medium one for 75% off – it cost me only $4.24!!!) I am taking pleasure in paying less for more, which is a new direction for me (although, I guess DSW has whetted my appetite!)

I offered to host book club at my house in February, a first for me, and I am thinking of ways to decorate my house for Valentine’s Day and what I will use for serving pieces, dishes, etc. It is  motivating me to get some of those little picky-picky projects done so my house (condo) will be ready for its début (knowing, of course, that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.)

I do have Coco here with me, and I love that. The other day, she sat in my lap while I read my book. Do you know how hard it is to read a 450-page hardback book with a not-so-little dog sitting in your lap? But I was enjoying her company too much to make her get down.

So, solace. Reading, relaxing, housekeeping (!), redecorating. Keeping me from going totally over the edge.


Sigh. January 12, 2010

Filed under: New Beginnings — Kelly @ 8:06 PM

Just when I thought things were moving forward in a positive direction, everything came screeching to a halt. At our faculty meeting yesterday, we learned that the terms of our contract were changing. Next year, we will work a traditional 7:30-3:30 workday, with weekly meetings on Monday afternoons from 3:30 to 4:30 and 2.5 more hours of “value added” time. We can “add value” Tuesday and Thursday each week from 3:30-4:30 or we can contribute the equivalent of that time somewhere else in the day. This proposal seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact, it has been under consideration for only two weeks. I really liked my job and felt like I had made strides in not working too much and in moderating my dedication to my profession at the expense of my personal life. So much for that.


Passion January 10, 2010

Filed under: New Beginnings — Kelly @ 10:00 PM
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We started the first day back after the Christmas break in the chapel. Our headmaster spoke about passion and how this is the time of year when both teachers and kids often succumb to the winter blahs and lose some of the excitement about teaching and learning that preceded the break. He read an excerpt from a book about teachers. An inner-city schoolteacher wrote about the woman who inspired her to go into teaching – her first grade teacher in Puerto Rico. The woman remembered how Mrs. Betancourt had cared about her students, greeting them outside the classroom each morning and ushering them into the room with enthusiasm.

He emphasized the importance of maintaining our passion for teaching – for students – at this time of year. It made me think about a conversation I had with a friend, in which I asked her who had been her favorite teacher. She named a teacher she had in middle school. When I asked her what made this teacher so memorable, my friend replied, “She cared about us.” I know that I have created a legacy that will last after my time on this earth. Children will remember me with fondness and may describe me as their favorite teacher someday. I have worked very hard in my career, giving countless hours of my own personal time to perfecting my craft, acquiring classroom materials, and preparing the learning environment for my students. I’m not sure I could come up with the number of hours I have volunteered in my own classroom after my official work hours were over.

While it is a privilege to be a part of these children’s lives, I have sacrificed my own personal life in the process. I think part of this is my need for downtime when I’m not working – hours of small children calling your name repeatedly tend to make you crave peace and quiet when you’re not with them! My workaholic tendencies are also fueled by my perfectionism and desire to perform my job to the best of my ability. I am slowly letting go of all of those things and trying to focus on living a meaningful life for me. I have felt lately that whatever leagacy I have, it isn’t enough if I don’t live a passionate life outside my classroom.

Over the last few years, I have made an effort to decrease the number of hours I “donate” to my classroom. I have also stopped spending so much money on materials from Lakeshore and books. Most of the books I have acquired recently have been free, purchased with bonus points from Scholastic, and I think I may have finally kicked the Lakeshore habit – the last time I went in (months ago!) I wasn’t seduced at all by the new products!

I want to make time in my day to develop my passions and my relationships. It shouldn’t be this much of a challenge, but it is.




Filed under: Happy Homemaking — Kelly @ 9:38 AM
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I am a perfectionist in my classroom. At the end of the day, each child has a job for which he or she is responsible. The children straighten book boxes, clean out cubbies, and fold and stack blankets. They pick up trash, sharpen pencils, and file papers. They stow away the messy-ness of the day’s learning and prepare for a fresh start the next morning. Then they go home to relax, spend time with their families, and participate in activities that make them happy. So why don’t I do the same thing for myself in my own home?

For much of my teaching career, I have awakened at 6:00 am and been at school by 7:30 (or earlier.) I taught from 8:00-3:00 with a short break for lunch and recess for the children and a 45-minute planning period for myself (when the children went to Specials – Art, PE, Music, etc.) During the day, I had morning hallway duty, lunch or recess duty, and carpool duty after school (or some combination thereof.)

Once the children left, my work day began. I typically worked from 3:30 to 5:30 or 6:00, completing paperwork, planning future lessons, gathering materials for the next day, and following up with emails and phone calls from parents, arriving home in the evening between 6:30 and 7:00. After a 12-or-more-hour workday, I was usually too exhausted to do anything besides heat up a frozen dinner (if I hadn’t picked up something on the way home) and collapse on the couch for my nightly dose of House Hunters. During my earlier years, I worked on schoolwork in the evening and on the weekends. I remember spending entire Saturdays grading papers and planning reading lessons for the upcoming week.

I am not a martyr – I chose this path – but, being a perfectionist, I made sure that everything I did as a teacher was up to my extremely high standards. When someone (okay, my therapist) suggested that I try being a “good-enough” teacher, I realized that even my “good-enough” was well above what a typical person in the job aspired to do. So I have tried to lower my standards. Way lower. This means that I focus on what is truly important about the lessons I am teaching and the environment in which the children are learning, and I am letting go of the little things that don’t matter in the long run.

Right now, I have blank bulletin boards. Blank, I tell you! Instead of polling the children about the new books they wanted for our classroom library (I have collected so many children’s books over the years that I cannot possibly keep them all out on the shelves – I have to rotate them periodically throughout the year), I just made the choices myself and switched them out! My new book baskets do not all have labels yet. (Actually, none of them have labels yet…!)

I still get up early and try to be at school before 7:30. I find it really helps to have ample time in the room by myself before the children arrive at 8:00. Lately, I have been leaving school by 4:30 unless there is a meeting or I have report cards to write or parent conferences to conduct. I rarely do work at night (that doesn’t mean that I don’t still bring home my bookbag full of papers, but it just sits by the back door, waiting to go back to school the next day! This is a downgrade from the rolling cart I used to have!) I hardly ever work on the weekends anymore (unless it’s report card or parent conference time.)

Over the Christmas holiday, I cleaned and organized closets, threw out or gave away things I don’t want or need anymore, and began making my bed each morning. I hung up all of my clothes in my closet instead of draping them on the overstuffed chair in my bedroom. I recycled stacks of magazines and newspapers and cleared off tables and countertops. I got rid of the messy-ness of the day’s tasks and prepared for a fresh start each morning. I have actually continued my newfound happy homemaking routine for the first week of school! I finally feel like I am giving my home the attention it deserves and taking steps toward enriching my own life the way I have enriched the lives of the children I teach.

What prompted this radical change in behavior? The credit goes to The Nester and to the headmaster at my new school. More on these inspirations later!



Blog January 9, 2010

Filed under: New Beginnings — Kelly @ 10:39 PM
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One of my favorite quotes is from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Being a teacher, I am all about encouraging children to shine. I acknowledge original ideas, praise clever thinking, and look for ways to bring out the best in each child in my classroom. I tell my students that each one of us is different, with varied interests, talents, and experiences, and that this is what makes our classroom community strong.

One of my strengths as a teacher is allowing each child to develop his or her own personality – I do not insist that my children conform to my notions of what makes an “ideal” student. I try to nurture my students’ passions for music, art, reading, writing, math, science and history while making sure that each child feels special, loved, and cared for in my classroom. It is most important to me that my students know I care about the wonderful people they are now and the amazing people they will become. My favorite elementary school teacher? Mrs. Thompson – the one who loved me in my fifth grade year.

So, having devoted the last 14 (actually, 13 1/2) years to being the best teacher I can be and trying to make a difference in the lives of the countless children with whom I have crossed paths, I now turn my attention to the little child I was, the one who wanted to shine but didn’t know how.