This past year has been a long, strange ride. I didn’t even realize how long until I looked back at everything that’s happened. I started last school year in the middle of a deep depression, one so bad that my work husband threatened to call the FCPS support network on me if I didn’t seek help. You know from my previous post that it took a broken finger and what I thought might be a broken nose for me to finally get to a doctor.
In November, I got the call to be a contestant on Jeopardy! And in December, I flew out to L.A. with my parents to film it. It was a fun experience, though not as lucrative as I had hoped. It was December, too, when my last remaining grandparent, my dad’s mom, died.
Work was a little easier than the previous year, but I did have to move around to five different classrooms and had a few run-ins with one of the teachers I shared with. Still, the colleagues in my department continued to be a source of support and encouragement. I wouldn’t know just how much until the spring when I lost a student to suicide. It was the most difficult experience of my teaching career, and I’m very grateful for the friends at work who supported me through it. It brought me closer to my students, too, because I allowed myself to cry in front of them and to voice what I had always believed, “you’re my kids.”
The school year ran long, with no snow days, into the last week of June, and on the last day before finals I had the only real discipline issue of the year, having to walk a couple students down to administration. Then, after finals, on the teacher work day, one of my seniors who had graduated a couple weeks before, came to chat. I thought he was going to ask for a letter of recommendation. Instead, he asked if he could touch my feet because he had a foot fetish. I spent my last hours of the school year in my administrator’s office reporting that awkward exchange so it would be on record. Not how I would have preferred to end my year.
Summer was short. I went to professional development for the first two days of summer break. For the month of July, I visited family in Michigan and took a road trip through the southern states before returning to Virginia for more professional development the first week of August.
As this new school year approached, I found myself getting excited. What a difference from last year! A year ago, I was looking toward my upcoming birthday with dread, thinking about ending things before it happened. This year, I’m excited about my birthday, even though I haven’t decided how I’m going to celebrate yet. I’m excited to be sharing a classroom with my work BFF. I’m excited to be teaching IB classes for the first time. I’m excited to be teaching and coaching speech and debate. The first week of school is almost over, and I really like my students so far; they all seem nice. And even though most of my classes are pretty large, they’re well-behaved thus far. I have one section of honors 12 which consists of students I had last year, and I’m very excited to spend another year with them, teaching literature I love. One of the advantages of having students I had last year is that they are already familiar with me and trust me. One of them wrote me in her first day of school letter that she’s depressed, and I’ve already been able to sit down with her and talk about it.
My speech and debate co-captains are energetic, highly motivated young women who I’m excited to work with. Fifty students signed up on the email list to learn about our interest meeting. I have speech and debate students in class that I already think will make good additions to the team.
Even though teaching my new classes is intimidating, I have good support from colleagues who are helping me out. I continue to do trivia when I can, and this fall offers many fun opportunities like the National Book Festival, MD Renaissance Faire, King’s Dominion, plus, hopefully, the reopening of the Book Thing. By helping out with a summer camp for IB students and coaching speech and debate, I’ll have a little extra money to play with, so I’m looking at buying my first non-twin bed and, of course, where I will travel next. I’m thinking either Africa (Cote d’Ivoire to visit my cousin and then east to climb Kilimanjaro) or France.
I guess the lesson in all this is a lot can happen in a year. More importantly, even the darkest moments pass. Going from literally not wanting your birthday to being excited about your birthday (to the point I plan on extending celebrations throughout the whole month) is a big and welcome change. As my mother would say, quoting someone else, “roses will bloom again.”