I mentioned to Miss Collins that I have been sort of treating this blog like a 'scrapbook'. My goal has been to go back to things that have happened throughout the year, or over the years and spend some time pondering them, because let's face it....even though this is supposed to be a 'slice' of what my life is like every day for a month, not that many interesting or poignant moments happen every day.
I don't have an epiphany every day.
I don't always feel like thinking about what happened every day.
Sometimes, when I get home from school, if the day has been particularly tiring or stressful, when my husband asks, 'How was your day?'
I simply say, 'It's over.'
And he understands that that means I don't want to talk about it. Sometimes it is easier to not think about everything that happened in a school day....because thinking about it only makes me stress out, or get frustrated about something that isn't going to change or be any different just because I talk about it.
If I don't have a little time alone at the end of each day to process, and do something quiet like read or drink some hot tea or go for a walk, I feel really stressed out. If I stay late at school, and we get home at around the same time, and I haven't had any time to myself, it is hard for me to relax. Without a little perspective, and a little time passing, it is hard to reflect and put any sense or meaning into the day-to-day things that happen.
Wild, the title of my most recently completed book.
This book hit close to home for me. The author, Cheryl Strayed embarked on a journey on the Pacific Crest Trail--her ever first major hiking experience.
Parts of the adventure were laugh-out-loud hilarious, like when she saw a long-horned bull on the trail and shouted: 'MOOOSE!'
Other parts of the story were tear-jerkingly sad. She spoke extensively about the loss of her mother and I related to her pain. Cheryl started the hike 4 years after her mother passed away from cancer. Cheryl was just 22 when her mother died. I lost my own mom when I was 29, just about 4 years ago. I wish I would've read this book sooner. Losing your mom is lonely and difficult. There are so many things I wish I would've asked her when she was alive. There are so many times that I wish I would have treated her differently or been a better daughter. Cheryl struggled with those same feelings and emotions and thoughts and the hike helped her to process her grief and move forward with her life.
I'm kind of a perfectionist.
I try to be cool. I try to be easygoing. I WANT to be laid back.
But there are some things that stress me out.
I've mentioned my anxiety about traveling.
But when it comes to parties and lesson planning and special events, my mind is all in the details.
I consider myself a big picture thinker but secretly, I obsess over the minutia.
It's frustrating because I want to just roll with things, but I can't I simply can't let the little things go.
An ill-timed sigh during a lesson.
An eye roll.
An exchange of glances across the room between students.
I observe and absorb everything.
And it dulls my enthusiasm.
It squelches my flame.
It takes the air out of my sails.
Sometimes I wish I could just teach two classes a day, and put everything into those two amazing lessons and really connect and engage a small class of enthusiastic students.
By the time I hit my 5th and 6th lesson of the day, the timing for each step/phrase is good, but the excitement emanating from my delivery is bad.
And by day two, lesson 10 or 11 of a 12 class stretch, I'm downright exhausted with the repetition.
And the fact that I'm not as excited at 8:45 as I am at 1:45 is rough---it is rough on me, and rough on my students.
I'm trying to find a balance.
To maintain my patience and enthusiasm no matter what.
But the perfectionist in me obsesses over the details and reactions from each and every individual that I am trying to connect with---all 330 of them every other day. (And the 300 or so that I encounter in the hallways and at bus duty or recess that will be in my class next year or had me last semester)
The sheer volume of ever-changing personalities is more than a little daunting.
Just when I finally 'get' one of my students, another kiddo has something 'going on at home' or matures or has an awkward spurt of hormones rendering their personality utterly unrecognizable.
The perfectionist in me believes that if I can teach just one great lesson, or have one great interaction with a student---'an aha! moment', it is frozen in time and I've done it, I've made a great connection!
But truth is, I'm a realist.
Since I have moved to middle school, I have learned that even though one student and I have always been on good terms, the fact that I scolded another student for being disruptive and disrespectful, means that I lose all trust and appreciation from the original student---it is one big game of who-likes-whom, and if I acknowledge innapropriate behavior in so-and-so's crush-of-the-week, suddenly I am 'mean' and 'hated' by the entire 6th grade.
Teaching middle school has very little to do with how much you know about a given subject (you are boring and everything about that entire subject is horrible), how many FUN projects you plan, (everything is stupid and lame), how much time you put into displaying art, (it gets thrown away before they walk out of the rom), prepping supplies or organizing materials (no one wants to do THAT).
Teaching middle school is more about tip-toeing between personality land mines and reading moods, gauging sugar intake levels, charting the moon phases, monitoring the barometric pressure and grasping the ever-changing flavor of the week.
What is 'cool' five minutes ago is SO last week.
Who was popular this morning is SO yesterday.
At times, I feel like the queen of mean, just for asking a few students to put away some stuff that was blocking the door way----even though I go above and beyond every single day to make sure they have what they need, what they request, they never even say thank you and those extra miles I cross are brushed away with an utterance of a few syllables. That ONE time I 'got onto' them, I'm transformed into a horrible, nasty, terrible witch of a woman.
The level of sensitivity at age 10-13 is absolutely incredible.
I get it.
I can't let things roll off my back.
I hold onto every imperfect interaction and I roll it around in my brain.
I lay awake worrying.
I try to make amends, to apologize, to make up for every scold or redirection....but what I say to one student has a ripple affect that I don't always perceive amongst the others.
And that's where the perfectionist in me fights the internal struggle.
How much do I ignore in order to maintain a good relationship with the masses?
How much will a redirection damage another relationship?
Will I turn a good student against me for having high expectations for the ones that don't or won't ever care?
Will I spend too much energy trying to reach the students that are already gone, beyond salvaging any sort of bond for whatever reason and in doing so, I disenfranchise the ones that were there all along?
Will I sever a great connection in order to mend an un-fixable one?
When someone asks: "How is school?"
All of the thoughts above flood my my mind.
I think about the students' perception, my delivery of the lessons, the quality of artwork on display, the frequency of my blogging/reflecting, the relationship that I have with my students and colleagues.
The first thought that comes to my mind is 'bad'. really bad. things are bad.
But in reality, things are fine.
Not every moment in the classroom IS perfect.
Not every moment CAN BE perfect. It is impossible.
Not ever delivery of a lesson or understanding of a concept can be perceived in an ill-timed eye roll or side-glance at a bestie.
Good relationships are built on high fives, side-hugs, a friendly 'good-morning' and a million casual interactions.
Establishing a positive existence means being able to make good connections with as many as possible, but not trying to please everyone.
It means swallowing pride, letting some things slide and trying to focus on the big picture, sometimes.
Because the details are just details, as forgotten as the waning gibbous on an insomniac bender.
Everyone remembers a full moon.
It is a full moon.
It is perfectly golden and glowing like a pearl.
But if you lay awake and notice anything that is not a perfect luminescent peach, you immediately forget that it was neither full nor crescent, it likely doesn't enter your mind as anything in particular, just a faceless orb on a sleepless night.
"It's a wonderful life."
"Pizza delivery en route."
"The kids played quietly."
"And baby makes three."
"Then he kissed me."
"I make beautiful things."
"Lifetime supply of chocolate."
"We ran away together."
"She gave me grandsons."
"All you can eat."
"I can do this."
Today I was inspired by the prompt above. I read through the comments on the post. Some were silly, about puppies, vacations, pets. But some were really powerful. Obviously the comments were written by people from every different walk of life. Some were grandparents, some were new moms, others were living happily ever after with the love of their life. Others were alone, single, broken.
"I won the lottery."
"I can be me."
"So, she loved herself."
"Love at first sight."
"It is party time."
"I adopted a dog."
We often convey our thoughts and stories in 140 characters or less.
We rarely take the time to analyze our experiences or emotions like this challenge has forced us to do.
To really think about a 'slice' of what our life is like for one month.
I think the prompt above is a really great way to think about an essential truth and take it down to it's most basic and simple terms.
"Come over for dinner."
"And then we flourished."
"Little dresses for Africa."
"The baby slept in."
"My family. My children."
"Married to best friend."
This writing challenge is unique because we have to write every day for one month.
But we already write every day.
We leave notes or messages.
"He texted me back."
"Two dollar tacos today."
"I asked, they helped."
"I'm 20 years sober."
"Keeping the trail warm."
"He makes me laugh."
"No school, snow day."
"Food, friends, laughter, fun."
"Will always love you."
"Chiefs win the Superbowl!"
Today, what makes you happy?
What is YOUR happy message in 4 words.
I bet everyone's 4 word story would be completely different.
So, what is your happy story?
What would you say in 4 words?
I know mine.
"37 days till summer."
My husband is jealous that I've had a whole week off.
But I haven't been 'off.'
Nearly every day I did SOMETHING sort of that relates to my job.
I haven't been OFF.
I just haven't been all the way ON.
But I could've been ON.
I could've worked almost every day of spring break.
Last Saturday was the National Art Education Professional Development Spring Conference in Chicago.
I would've LOVED to travel to Chicago for the weekend, but instead, I hosted a house full of friends on Saturday night and we feasted on Irish food and stayed up way too late. While it would've been great to sit through meetings on Friday and Saturday and stay up-to-date with what is happening in the teaching world. it felt good to hang out at home.
*This was the most 'OFF' I was the whole week* On Sunday, my husband and I watched an entire season of a new show on Netflix and made nachos in the oven. We didn't go outside once. It was glorious.
On Monday, I went to Crystal Bridges....in my line of work, going to an art museum IS professional development. (While at the museum, I bumped into a whole family of students---awesome!)
On Tuesday, we went to OKC....While driving down there and back, I finished two books. While at the Thunder game that night, I ran into a student.
On Wednesday, we went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. And when I got home, I worked on some art projects. I also spent the evening organizing stuff for an upcoming art retreat I am in charge of.
On Thursday, I could've participated in the Youth Art Month event at the Capitol in Jefferson City. I didn't participate this year. Sad but true. Instead, I took the car in for an oil change. Then, I went to the tire shop to have my tires rotated. While sitting in the waiting rooms, I organized photos on my phone and listened to a book on tape. Afterwards, I did a little shopping---I needed to buy a few things for school.
On Friday, I went to see the photography exhibit at Spiva. And I spent the rest of the afternoon working on stuff for the art retreat, looking through art catalogs to prep for the impending requisition I will be doing after spring break. After that I met a friend at a trail and we hiked. It was a wonderful day to be outside.
I'm sad that today is the last day of Spring Break. But it has been a productive week. I've done a lot of reading, spent a lot of time with friends, and did all of my favorite things----bookstores, museums, hiking.
So even if the majority of my day was not spent being 'ON', I wasn't completely 'OFF' either.
I still had one foot in my professional life almost every day.
And if you count the fact that I've been writing every day...well....then I should get bonus points.
A friend recently realized how often I take the lead in organizing and planning group events for our friends. As a blue personality, I am naturally drawn towards being in charge.
Generally speaking, I don't mind navigating on road trips, looking up restaurant information, calling ahead for reservations, and finding out in advance what is happening around town which might be fun to do. She realized that she does NOT enjoy doing those things. Not only does she not enjoy those things, she spends a lot of time with other people who also do not enjoy being in charge. When this particular group went on vacation recently, they spent a lot of time sitting around, trying to figure out what to do. She realized that they didn't have a 'me' to take the lead and she realized how powerful it is to have someone in the group to research the options, make a suggestion and put things into motion.
After she mentioned that, and thanked me for always being willing to to that, I realized how often I jump at the chance to be the social committee. Planning parties, organizing elaborate themed birthday celebrations, spearheading events and road trips---all of those things are SO fun for me.
But sometimes I don't want to be in charge. I don't want to be the only one planning everything all the time. I also like being invited to things too.
This weekend we were supposed to go camping. I had even created a FB event so we could iron out the details of the trip. After I realized that a couple of people had to work today AND it might rain, I canceled the event. My step-sister offered to plan something for us to do and I let her take the reigns. So she sent out a group text inviting everyone stay the weekend at their house. And she followed up by saying that details about food and events would follow....finally yesterday, without another peep, she said, "Fend for yourselves for dinner on Friday..." and just like that the 'whole weekend' fizzled out and became just a cookout Saturday night.
So we ended up at El Vaquero eating a huge side of white queso, guacamole, chips+salsa, and fajitas for two (which really feeds four) last night. By 9:30, I was home in bed in a total food coma.
Last semester, we did a project in which students had to transfer their portrait to a coffee-filter-type paper 4 times. Each time the face needed to look correct, proportional and exact.. So I told my students they would actually be TRACING?! Yes, its true.
For this project, I explained that we would be 'transferring' the portrait 4 times, on the radial 'mandala', so the best way to maintain consistency would be to TRACE the face with a sharpie--no pencils allowed.
I pre-folded the circles before passing them out to the students and emphasized the idea that this is a CIRCLE, the image will be repeated, so don't trace your face once in the middle, think of it more like a piece of pizza with your pepperoni-face on each slice-HA! Radial balance at it's cheesiest.
Since students were tracing their own selfie (which I had printed off, and bumped up the contrast to make it easier to trace) I encouraged them to ONLY trace the 'black' shadows and shapes on their faces.
Some kids did not heed my warning, and they tried to freehand their eyes and noses---normally, I try to make them draw things as they actually look, but often students will draw those features as they THINK they look, so it made them look a LOT like Quasimodo (no one knows who that is anymore!).
After a few students had done it the Quasimodo--way, I printed off a picture of the Hunchback of NotraDame and hung it on the board to reinforce my emphasis, "Please, for the love of pete, listen to what I am saying, do not go off on your own in this process."
I had also encouraged them NOT to show their teeth in their selfie because sometimes teeth look a little weird in the transfer process....the students that showed their teeth AND attempted to free hand the portrait...well, let's just say that those REALLY look like Quasimodo. (I DO try to help when I give instructions, honestly I do. I don't just talk for the sake of hearing myself talk!)
One day, a boy who had been absent for the first step of the project raised his hand and asked, "Mrs. Mitchell, is that a picture of Quasimodo on the board?"
"Why yes, yes it is."
I almost wept with the sheer excitement that this kid knew who that was....and the fact that he asked by raising his hand. Also, I think I was so excited I said something like, " This kid gets me." We both laughed about the fact that some of the drawings were looking so 'off.'
Later, I mentioned to the student that I was planning to turn the image of Quasimodo into a wood burning...so I could keep it hanging up in the classroom.
He has asked me about the wood project several times since I mentioned it to him....way back in November.
I was sort of waiting for a snow day...and we never had one.
So I FINALLY wood burned Quasimodo.
Happy Spring break.
Last year, I wrote about how I made friends with someone who happened to be sitting in my exact same seat one day in high school biology class. It was as if a cosmic connection were working to bring us together.
On Tuesday, I was reminded of that post while we were at an Oklahoma Thunder basketball game.
As a teacher, I often run into my students everywhere.
Monday, I ran into an entire family of students at Crystal Bridges, and today I saw pack of kids at the mall.
But on Tuesday, I didn't think I would see a single soul in an arena that held 18,000 people.
Odds were that someone that I know most likely would be at the game, the only week day game of the entire spring break.
I had noticed the student with his brother and dad in the bustling corridor of the arena. Finally, it was time to take our seats. Section 325, row J, seats 9, 10, 11, 12. I sat down in seat 11. My husband in seat 12, and some friends of ours sat in seat 9 and 10.
A few minutes passed as we watched the teams warming up down on the court.
Suddenly, I noticed my student and his family marching up the stairs to find their seats. They came straight for row J. We stood to let them by, and there was an issue with the seats.....or so it seamed. The boy's dad read off their seat numbers, 10, 11, 12....Row J. My friend asked what section: "Section 324" AHA! They needed to move one section over.
What are the odds that in an arena that holds 18,000 people, the only other person that I know would try to sit down in my exact seat? It is crazy how the universe works sometimes.
My husband has a panic disorder.
If he thinks about the 'what if' for too long, it spirals into a panic attack and he can't turn it off.
Living with someone who has anxiety is challenging.
I can usually tell if he is in the middle of a panic attack because he is quiet. If he isn't talking or doing anything, then he is probably freaking out about something. I don't always know what to do to make him feel better.
I don't think I've ever had a panic attack. But I have my own little anxiety monster. I'm not really sure where it comes from, but I've had it since I was a kid.
Every time we would travel, I would get sick the night before. I would have to sleep on the couch or with a bowl beside me (in case I needed to puke and couldn't make it to the bathroom). I don't remember any of that, but I have a photo from the morning we were going on a big road trip all the way to Oregon to visit my grandparents, and there I am, on the couch in my nightgown, looking pitiful. I know I hadn't eaten anything bad or been exposed to anyone else who was sick, it had to have been from my anxiety.
In college, before I would travel, I would get a rash on my arms and hands. I tried to pass it off as dry skin or something like that, but I had never experienced anything like that before, and I got the same rash before I went to Italy, Sweden, and Australia so I know that I hadn't changed detergents or been exposed to anything weird. It had to have been from my anxiety.
The night before my wedding, my husband's mom stayed in my room (we got married at a resort in Jamaica), and just like when I was a kid, I got sick in the middle of the night. I was sleeping soundly, feeling fine, and then all of a sudden, I had to race to a receptacle so that I could vomit. (Talk about embarrassing). I know it had to have been from my anxiety.
Now, I don't get a rash and I don't get sick, but I have obsessive thoughts. I worry about logistics. I worry about what to pack. I obsess over the minute details of the itinerary. To calm my worries, I write lists, and practice packing my suitcase in advance to make sure I won't forget anything.
I think my husband senses my anxiety because I start to ask questions and think of things no one else would ever consider, weeks before we go anywhere.
Mini hike in the woods.
Yesterday had the makings of a perfect day. Amidst the sunshine and smiles, my four friends and I stopped to take selfies.
And group photos.
And still lifes.
And food pics.
And those were assembled into photo collages.
And then we'd tag ourselves.
And tag our location on Facebook and Instagram.
At each stop along the way, one or more of us would pause to look at photos from earlier, edit or crop them and then we would upload them to one or more social media sites.
Laughing at a stop light after a silly selfie stick moment, my friend Kelsey, the conspiracy theorist, the worrier, the worst case scenario-ist exclaimed, "It's a good thing you are keeping people updated. Just in case something happens. You are keeping that trail hot. Leaving all those breadcrumbs!"
We laughed and immediately that became our catch phrase of the day as we posted even more photos and evidence of our adventures. Keeping the trail warm.
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine