Posts Tagged 'Teaching'

August 23, 2013
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I’ve been meaning to write this post since, um, JUNE…but am just now getting around to it! As most of you know, I am taking this school year off from teaching in order to stay home with our children. I have wanted to share the story about how we came to that decision and what it means to our family, so here we go…

Taking off the rest of last school year after Aiden was born in December was a no-brainer. I had taken twelve weeks with Peyton, and although it was twice as long as a typical maternity leave, I regretted it every day that I wasn’t with her. Don’t get me wrong – I loved my kids at school, my co-workers, and the income that working provided! But something just didn’t feel right. For one, I wasn’t all that great at juggling the many hats I was wearing – wife, mom, teacher, and photographer (in my free time). I felt like I tried to be the best mom I could be, and my job suffered. I felt bad about that and tried to be the best teacher I could be, and felt like my home life suffered. I give so much credit to teachers (or all working mamas for that matter!) that have learned to balance it all. I am so envious of your ability to do so, and would love to hear any pointers that you have to offer! 😉

I quickly discovered that working full-time wasn’t what was best for my family or my career. I tried (and tried, and tried…) to find someone to job share with after Peyton was born, and nothing worked out. So we decided to have another baby! (Logical thinking, right?) The plan was for me to take off the rest of the school year, and then go back part-time the following year. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up working out again. I was devastated. Now I had TWO kids at home that I didn’t want to leave, and my options became working full-time again or taking the year off. Jason and I had many conversations about it, but never reached a decision. The deadline to tell school was quickly approaching, and I didn’t know what to do. So I prayed (and prayed, and prayed…). At one point I got so desperate for an answer, that I asked God for a sign. I asked Him for a rainbow, to be exact. I was driving to meet Jason somewhere for dinner, and there had been a very quick rain – nothing to write home about. I asked God to show me a rainbow if He wanted me to stay home full-time. Well, I didn’t see one driving to the restaurant. I knew it was silly to ask for such a thing, but I still felt disappointed. I started to think perhaps God wanted me to go back to work. Driving home, I didn’t think much of my little conversation with God and had stopped frantically looking for rainbows. Yet it was on my drive home that one appeared! I was stopped at a red light, and I saw the faintest rainbow in the sky. Since it hadn’t rained in awhile, I was shocked to see it. I was so shocked that I actually took a picture of it on my phone as proof! I felt like God had heard my prayers, and was answering ever so quietly, “Stay home!”

Well, that same weekend Jason and I had a fire pit night. We have our deepest conversations out at the fire pit in our backyard, and this night was no exception. I could tell something was bothering Jason, and he finally brought up what he thought I should do in terms of work vs. stay home. Since his company was restructuring their commission plan, his pay was being cut pretty significantly. He felt that I needed to work to ensure we could afford all of our expenses. I was devastated. I didn’t bring up my talk with God or the rainbow. I just cried. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to be home with our kids. Luckily I have an amazing husband who knew my heart, and wanted me to stay home with our kids, too. I knew he was just looking out for us financially, and I had to trust his judgment. So it was finally decided – I was going back to work in the fall. I reluctantly emailed the person in HR that I had contacted to get more info about taking a year’s leave. I told him I was going to come back to work, so no need to fill my spot. I also emailed our sitter and told her we would be using her full-time in the fall. While I knew I had a great job and a wonderful sitter, my heart hurt. My head was able to say things like, “This is for the best,” “Maybe God needs you at school,” And “Your kids will have so much fun with their friends each day.” But my heart? It was having a hard time agreeing.

A few days later my photographer friend, Annie, sent me a message asking if we could get dinner. Annie photographed our wedding and both births of our babies, and has been such a wonderful mentor to me. We get together a few times a year to talk photography and catch up. This time was different, though. She wanted to meet that week, if possible. Normally we’ll set a date a few weeks out, so it kind of surprised me that she wanted to meet as soon as possible. We agreed to get together on a Monday night, and met at our usual spot. I filled her in on our recent decision for me to go back to work. She sat and listened, and sympathized with me. Then she told me the reason that she had wanted to get together so quickly. She had seen the pictures I took of Lainey’s birth on my blog, and was impressed. She said that she felt my style was very similar to hers, and noticed how much I had improved since Blake’s birth (a lot of the improvements I credit to my new camera and lens!). Annie explained that she has had a lot of requests for births, and hasn’t been able to keep up with them all. She asked me to be her backup birth photographer. I was shocked. ME?! I had only done two births! I was flattered beyond belief. But in order for me to be her back up, I ideally needed to not be working full-time. I felt a little disappointed that I probably wouldn’t be able to step in for her too often. I told her I’d have to think about it and get back to her.

I called my mom and cried the entire way home from my dinner with Annie. I kept saying, “I think God wants me to stay home! Every sign has pointed to me towards not working!” My mom and dad have always supported me, and this was no exception. My mom agreed that staying home was best for me and our kids. She and my dad even offered to help us out in any way they could in order for me to take the year off. By the time I got home, my eyes were puffy and red and I ran upstairs to Jason. Through my tears I told him all about Annie, the rainbow, my parents, and other little signs that have pointed me towards staying home with our kids. He listened as I rambled on and on, and finally did something that shocked me…he AGREED! A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt bad that by getting that weight off MY shoulders, I was putting more weight on HIS. I hate that me staying home adds pressure for him to succeed at work. But you know what? My husband is a rock star. He continues to do well in his job, and I am so proud of him. God has a funny way of providing for His children, and I honestly feel that He has his hand in our finances. Not only is Jason doing well at his job, but I have been blessed with a lot of clients in my photography business! This summer was my busiest one yet, and I haven’t even started booking for fall (which is usually my crazy time). I also have two births lined up, and am excited at the possibility to add a few more! My goal is one a month, so we’ll see how that goes! God has provided like I had faith that He would. It reminds me of Matthew 6:26:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”

That Monday night was when I decided to stay home, and Wednesday was the last day of school. All of a sudden I was stressed out about packing up my room (which I hadn’t been in since December, mind you!), finding a place to store all my teaching stuff, and letting everyone know of my decision. Since we don’t have a basement in our current house, storage space is limited. Thankfully an AWESOME teacher friend of mine is renting Jason’s old house, and agreed to let me store my supplies in the basement there. Alleluia! Packing up seven years’ worth of “stuff” was a lot of work, and I tried to go through things without getting too emotional. For the most part I succeeded, but when it came time to take all seven class pictures off my fridge, it hit me. HARD. Those faces…those sweet kids that I had loved and poured myself into through the years…it made me realize what I was leaving. I was going to miss first graders that would hug me, laugh with me, test my patience, and learn alongside me. I packed up all the pictures knowing that I had touched all those lives in some way. That was the hardest thing in my classroom to pack up, without a doubt.

I have been happy with my decision all summer. While I saw tons of posts on Facebook from teachers about getting ready and going back to school, I gave a big sigh of relief. I could enjoy every last minute of summer, knowing that my time off would last at least another year. I hugged Peyton and Aiden a little tighter, thankful that I wouldn’t have to count down the days until I wasn’t home with them all day anymore.

This week tested my decision a little bit. Monday night I saw lots of posts from my friends about meeting their new kids. I saw pictures of little ones so excited to meet their new teachers. I thought about how exciting Orientation was each year. I loved seeing all the new faces I’d be spending the year with and getting to know their parents. I also loved showing off my classroom, as it is always so clean and fresh and ready for the new year ahead. Man…I missed that.

Then there was Wednesday – the big first day of school. I thought about how most of my teacher friends probably didn’t sleep much the night before, as they were nervous they’d sleep through their alarm clocks and were wondering how the first day would go. I thought about them all day, knowing they were teaching their kids how to use the restroom properly, walk in the halls, where to sit, how to raise their hands, the quiet signal, and so many other procedures we take for granted at the end of the school year! That first day (well, first week, really…) is always so exhausting. Teachers are lucky to shove a quick sandwich down their throats before they run to see who from their class didn’t go in from recess and were missing lunch. Yet those first few days are always some of my favorites. The kids look up to you for guidance and trust you to help them maneuver through the big transition from half-day to full-day school. They get on their buses and often run home to tell their parents how much fun they had. And then they would usually fall sound asleep for an early bedtime! I always loved getting emails from parents letting me know how much their kids had enjoyed first grade.

Even though I miss all of the exciting moments of teaching, I know in my heart of hearts that stepping away from the classroom for now was the best decision for me. I traded my year with a room full of first-graders for the three of these people…

BFamily Pics Aug.-6

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jason, Peyton, and Aiden get me full-time, and I am so grateful for that. I know that someday in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be putting both my kids on a school bus and will watch as they head off to their first days of school. I will get to share in the excitement of a new school year and all that it holds in store. But for now I am going to enjoy them being little. I am going to share in the excitement of watching them grow and learn each day, and create memories that we will treasure for years to come. I know without a doubt that this was God’s plan for me all along. I think back to that rainbow that I saw when I was so confused, and now I think it was God’s way of saying, “You’ll get to stay home…but it’s not going to be an easy decision, and you’ll figure it out at the very last minute.” I have to remember that God’s timing is always perfect and ALWAYS better than mine!

 

To all my teacher friends who have headed back to school,

I know this is a crazy time for you, so hang in there! I know those of you who have kids are trading time with your sweet babies to spend all day with your new students. I know you will give so much of your heart, your patience, and your energy at school that you worry if you’ll have enough for your own family when you get home. I know that for those of you who don’t have kids, your students ARE “your kids.” You will share funny and inspirational stories of them with your family and friends (respecting their confidentiality, of course!). You, too, will give all you have during the school day, and will often return home feeling that you’re on empty.

Thank you for all you do to make learning fun, engaging, and appropriate for each student. Thanks for all the pats on the back, Band-Aids, smiles, and tissues you will hand out. Thank you for the year’s worth of work you fit into nine months. Thanks for all the papers you’ll take home to grade on your nights and weekends. Thank you for keeping a smile on your face through all the curriculum changes, even though you know it will change again in the not-so-distant future. Thanks for all the extra effort you pour into those children that struggle, knowing that in time the light-bulb will go off and it will be worth it. Thank you for answering emails and phone calls at home, because you know that the families appreciate and value your input. Thanks for supporting one another in any way that you can – planning together, sharing materials, and most importantly, being there for each other as friends. Thank you for choosing a profession that isn’t the most highly paid, and is often pretty thankless, because you know that the world needs good teachers. I admire what you do, and hope you all have a wonderful school year!

I hope to see many of my “teacher friends” soon! And to those awesome ladies in my pod, I plan to bring in lunch once you get settled…I miss you!!!

~Kristi~

December 19, 2012
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I worked my last school day of the year on Friday, December 14th. I only worked the morning, as I had been doing half-days all week due to swelling and the discomforts of being 39 weeks pregnant. I was ready to be done. My body was done, my mind was done, and all I wanted was to spend a few relaxing days at home with Peyton until Aiden decided to make his appearance. So, I marched my class of first graders out to the playground for the last time, gave them all a hug before they ran to play, packed up, and headed home. I felt a sense of relief and closure as I walked out the doors of my school.

I got home, put my feet up, and turned on the TV. I was immediately taken aback by coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. At that point, not much was known about how many dead, the ages, etc. Yet as more details became known, the more my heart ached. Twenty first graders and six elementary school teachers/staff members were taken in such a senseless way. While any kind of event like this is upsetting, this one really got to me. Being a mother and a first grade teacher myself, this one just hit way too close to home. I have always been one to process things best through writing, and so I thought I would try to put my feelings into words.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was a little girl. When it came time to choose a major in college, I knew without a doubt what to pick. People that become teachers choose the profession because they love children. They want to help others, they want to inspire a love of learning, and they genuinely want to make a difference. No one goes into the education profession for the money, the summers off, or because it’s an “easy” job. In fact, teaching is a very difficult and draining profession. I started out my teaching career an energetic and enthusiastic twenty-two year old. I quickly found out how time consuming my chosen profession could be. I would stay late in the evenings, go in to school on the weekends, and spend many hours grading papers at home. Teaching was my life those first few years, and I wanted to be the best educator that I could be. My students became “my kids,” and I would often refer to them as such.

I was dating a guy during these first few years of teaching. We were already on the rocks and the relationship was hanging by a thread, but he came over to hang out one night. I was talking about school stuff and said something about “my kids,” and he got upset that I referred to them as such. He said that they were not in fact “my kids,” and went on to say that in a few years I would barely remember them. Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told him to leave, and that was the last time I saw him. As I said, we were pretty much broken up at that point anyway, but those comments were enough to make me realize that I could never EVER marry someone that didn’t understand what it means to be a teacher. Luckily only a few weeks later, I met Jason. He lets me talk about “my kids” as much as I want. For all I know, his mind may be elsewhere and he’s just humoring me, but I appreciate it nonetheless!

For the record, I do remember all of my past students. I think about them often, especially the ones that, at the time, tried every last bit of patience I had in me. I want good things for them, and it makes my heart sing when a few come back and visit. (Since my building only goes up to first grade, now second grade, usually I don’t get to see my students as they grow up.) I still refer to them as “my kids,” and they always will be that to me. I love my students as if they are my own. I spend my days teaching them to be kind to each other, feeling foreheads when they feel sick, disciplining with love, giving and receiving hugs, stopping bickering, and keeping them safe. Oh yeah…and teaching them how to read, write, and build their foundation of number sense. So parents, while YOUR kids are in my care at school, in a way, they become MY kids. And if someone came in with a gun and tried to hurt my kids? Well, I’d do what the teachers of Sandy Hook did…anything in my power to protect them, even if it meant giving up my own life. I know all of my fellow colleagues would do the same. I know there wouldn’t even be a second thought.

I am so touched and inspired by the kindness and love I have seen from the teachers that worked at Sandy Hook. In those horrible moments on Friday, they were telling their students that they love them, praying with them, and being parental figures when the children’s mommies and daddies weren’t able to be there. THAT is what teaching is all about. I’m sure those teachers weren’t worried about if their lessons were perfect, the grades they needed to take, or the professional developments they should attend. They weren’t concerned about test scores or where their school ranked compared to others. They were able to focus on the one thing that truly matters in education: the kids.

I am still very excited to have the opportunity to stay home with Peyton and Aiden for the remainder of the school year. Being a teacher was my dream job…until I became a mom. Now, all I want to do is spend time with my own kiddos and make memories with them. When my hopes of going part-time this year didn’t pan out, having Baby #2 was our plan B for me to be able to stay home with the kids more. I know that Peyton (and now Aiden) will only be little once. It killed me to miss so much of Peyton’s life in order to teach other people’s children. I hated that I spent so much of my patience and energy on my kids at school that when I got home, I felt like I didn’t have enough for my own child. The better teacher I became, the worse mom I felt I became. And in turn, the better mom I became, the more I had to let slip while teaching. It was very hard for me to balance my two roles, both that I cared so much about. So I decided it was best to step away from my role as teacher for a while and focus on my role as mom. I don’t regret this decision for a second, and I know many others that assure me I will never look back and regret it. While financially it will be an adjustment, in the long run, I know I am doing the best thing for myself and my family.

While I am confident in my decision, I just wish I would’ve taken the time on Friday to hug and love on my first graders just a *little* bit more, and make sure they knew that I loved them. It is so easy to get sucked into the politics at school, and focus on the things that, in the big scheme of things, really don’t matter. I won’t miss any of that “stuff,” but I WILL miss my kids. So my advice to all of my fellow teachers out there is this: remember WHY you became a teacher. For most of you, I’m sure it is because you wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives. Teach from there. The emails, the grades, the trainings, the meetings…those won’t matter in the end. So as hard as it is, don’t let yourself focus on all of that. Focus on your kids, and doing what you know in your heart is right for them. I just wish I would’ve realized this before I walked out of my classroom on Friday.

As hard as the shooting hit me as a teacher, it hit me even harder as a parent. As I said, being a mom is the single most valuable job I will ever have. My kids are my world. I cannot even BEGIN to imagine what the parents of those twenty first graders are feeling right now. If it were me, I think it would take everything in my being just to get out of bed in the morning. I think about all of the little things I take for granted as a mom – getting the kid out of bed in the morning, feeding meals, brushing teeth, reading books, bedtime routines, etc. All of those little things have a new meaning now. I am LUCKY that I get to make food for Peyton to eat. I am over-the-moon BLESSED that I get to tuck her into bed each night. I am THANKFUL that I have a child to discipline. I know that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. So it is my job to make today count, and to focus on what is important.

Last week, I took Peyton to her 18 month check up at the pediatrician. My little peanut is still only 18-19 lbs., and at this point weighs so little that she isn’t even in a percentile for weight. The doctor said we needed to look into things at this point, and said blood work was needed to rule out some possibilities. I was forced to hold my sweet girl down while they drew blood from her arm (all while 9 months pregnant, mind you). She of course screamed in pain, looked into my eyes with tears streaming down her face, while seeming to ask the question, “Why are you doing this to me, mommy?!” It took everything in me not to cry myself. Then they told me that the vein popped, and they weren’t able to collect the blood they needed. They said I had to take her to Children’s so that they could do the blood work. Oh great…we got to do THAT all over again. I called Jason and asked him to meet us there. I physically had a hard time holding her down, and emotionally I just couldn’t watch it by myself again. I felt awful for her. I remember thinking, “I feel so bad for parents of children with Cancer or other medical issues where they have to be poked and prodded all the time.” Now, after Friday’s events, I know what is even worse – having to bury your child. My heart just aches for all of those families.

(Side note – Peyton’s blood work all came back fine. We will continue to monitor her growth with the doctor, but at least we know her body is functioning as it should! Praise God!!!)

I heard this version of You Are My Sunshine on Pandora awhile back, and instantly fell in love with it. I was planning on making a slide-show of pictures of Peyton to it, hoping to make something special for her before the baby came. (Of course that hasn’t happened yet…it’s the thought that counts, right?!) Peyton IS my sunshine. Even on my worst day, I can take one look at my little girl and know how incredibly blessed I am. She lights up my life, and I’m sure Mr. Aiden will do the same. I have sung that song to her over and over throughout her short little life. It wasn’t until Friday that the part of the song, “Please don’t take my sunshine away” really sank in for me. On Friday, those parents lost the sunshine in their lives. All I can do is pray that God will somehow see them through their sorrow, and let some rays of sunshine through the skies of grey.

I know this post has been lengthy, as most of my writing tends to be. But I want to challenge all of you that made it this far to do a few things. First, please continue to pray for the students, staff members, and families of Newtown. They need peace that only God can provide right now. Secondly, thank a teacher. I know many parents wonder what to get their kids’ teachers for gifts this time of the year. While Pinterest creations, candles, and gift cards are all appreciated, teachers just want to feel like what they do every day is noticed and appreciated. Write a card, and tell them WHY you appreciate them. Make it specific, make it lengthy, and write from the heart! This will mean so much more to them than anything you can buy in a store. And lastly, realize that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Take time to hug the ones you love, savor the memories you make with them, and thank God every day for all you’ve been blessed with.

**Please ignore the picture I chose for this post (below). My site requires some sort of a photo to go with each post, and I don’t have many pictures of me at school. This one is from the engagement shower my class threw for Jason and I. My awesome room mom at the time arranged for Jason to come to the party, too! It was also the Polar Express PJ day, hence my lovely hoodie! 🙂 **

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