Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Countdown is Over

Photo courtesy of Gwen Wilson Photography

The year has absolutely flown by. Perhaps it is not until I sit here, just tonight, on a Sunday, not feeling the normal anxiety that this time of the week usually provokes as I build the mental list of all that I did not accomplish over the weekend and all that lies in the week ahead, that it really feels like the school year has ended.

Seriously... on Sunday nights?... I'm usually a mess.

Not tonight though, because there is no school tomorrow. The "official" start of my summer is still in limbo until I know whether enough students enroll in Summer School for me to have a class, and I am still going back up to the school one day this week, to clean the Key Club room and maybe serve on a Handbook Revisions committee. However, the Class of 2013 has tossed their caps in the air and thus school has ended and summer break has begun.

Truly though, it has absolutely flown by! This is not something that I say every year. Usually early to mid-May, something will click and I am just ready for it to be over. Usually it is accompanied by some lapse in sanity... such as standing in front of my room hitting the "unlock" button on my key chain (as in, with the car's keyless entry button), wondering why the classroom door won't open. (True Story.) But that time never really came this year.

Maybe it's because of my declaration before school to started not to "Countdown" this time around. Not to start the week off asking, "Is it Friday yet?" Not to know how many days until Christmas Break, Spring Break, Summer. The truth is I very rarely ever did have a "countdown" mentality to the school year. However, I faked it pretty well. It's the fallback social banter of teachers. My common quip at the end of the first day of school was always, "Only 179 more days to go!"

The truth is I love my job. Langston Hughes asked what happens to "A Dream Deferred" and I could write my own, equally prolific poem in response, because after many... many jobs... I am living my dream deferred. There are days, of course, this isn't so easy to remember. And there have been entire school years in the past that would make this hard to believe. Most days, most years though, I am so thankful for the new life I have found in teaching.

So going into this school year, I made the conscious decision to not engage in the negativity. It's inevitable, especially in light of so many changes, in leadership, in school and even state & federal policy. I pledged to offer positive responses to gripes and complaints, and remove myself from the situation when the effort seemed fruitless. There were surely times I failed, but there were many more times in which I succeeded. Just as assuredly, I probably really ticked some people off... by not being ticked off... and how funny is that? More importantly, I think I came across to most as someone who loves my job, and that is all I care about.

So maybe that's why this year flew by faster than ever before. Next year, I need to prioritize documenting the memories better- whether through photographs, or journaling, or this blog, or even my (newly required) teacher notebook. I don't want another year to end in which I have to struggle to remember all that happened. Another year like this.

My year began and ended with very stressful meetings. I found myself forgetting being a part of the school leadership team, the Key Club earning the rank of Distinguished Club- Diamond Level, raising over $13,000 again for Relay for Life and being a part of bringing it to the high school and overnight, having one mother fight to get her son moved into my Honors class, and other mothers thank me for how much I have taught and prepared their children, and receiving a score much higher than I had anticipated on the new teacher evaluation system. Instead, I just found myself asking why did my year have to end like this- with such a stressful meeting, that I should have stayed on the periphery of anyway, and not have dealt with.

After only ruminating on this a few days though came graduation, and it gave me a new memory to frame my year with- Kristen's speech. While she mentioned the influence of her elementary years and noted the memory of gasping for air from the classroom window while dissecting a frog, she definitely highlighted the influence Key Club- and I- have on the school, and her life. This was a footnote to the speech and presentation she had already made to me at the year-end awards ceremony.

This. This was an amazing way to end this school year. It's not because I got another plaque for the "I love me" wall (or chalkboard ledge in this case). (Although, I do love plaques, as Kristen so lovingly noted in her presentation.) It's not that I had "McHenry is awesome" sentiments proclaimed at two big year-end ceremonies. I don't know that I can really explain what "it" is.

I have thought lately about that big philosophical question, "What is the meaning of life?" What is the purpose of our time spent here? I don't know exactly what the answer to that is... unsurprisingly. But, when I ponder it, I think about the idea of legacies. I want the influence that I have on the life of others to extended beyond our face-to-face moments. I want to know that I have impacted lives in  ways that will influence others to do the same. That I have affected lives in a way that will make them remember our time together and what they learned- not just about improving writing through proper pronoun agreement, but about life, and the greater world.

I think my Key Clubbers and everything they do is beyond words... although I try to find those words... and although they are often drowned in tears when I do. Occasionally though, I will find myself pause, and I will wonder if THEY get "it." Is my image of this legacy distorted? Do I think all that we do is so amazing and they just think it's another bullet on their college application... of course, there are certainly those for who it is just that.

But then there are moments like "this." Moments when I see they get "it." And these moments provided by Kristen this year were the pinnacle of seeing that legacy grow, seeing that influence, seeing "it."

Ironically, or perhaps not since we seem to have many coincidences like this, the message of Kristen's graduation speech was "The Countdown is Over." It kind of brings everything full circle, doesn't it? Even though I began my year with the mindset of not counting down, it didn't matter. Face it, or not, we start each school year with only 180 days. That time- like life itself- is going to fly by. As teachers, as mentors, we have to keep a dedicated focus to making those days, every day, memorable- inside the classroom and out.

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