Strange new land

The first “official” week back at school (mean the students were in attendance), was so strange for me. It was quiet. I didn’t have 25 small humans around me constantly needing something every moment of every day. I did a bunch of paperwork and made a bunch of phone calls and took a bunch webinars for test administrations. It was so odd. And though I’m grateful, because less hectic = less stress at the moment and less stress = better for the baby I’m trying to successfully grow, part of me was sad. I felt misplaced. I felt like I was supposed to be doing something, being somewhere, but I wasn’t.

Having lunch duty with the seventh graders was the most difficult part of my day. I only have them for half an hour, but they’re just so self-centered. Entitled. I know that partly that’s their age. But I feel like, for better or worse, we need to teach them not only academics but how to be good human beings. Because, at least for my school, most of them don’t really get that character education at home. And I feel like if we send them out into the world knowing Pythagorean Theorem, but being awful people, we’ve failed them in a way. I’m trying to figure out, in my small slice of time with them, how to get through to them (while also making sure they know damn well I will not be taking their shit — they don’t like this about me already, haha).

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, because I get to start pulling the kindergarten students to screen them for ESL services if need be. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been excited to test anyone before. I’m just very excited to when I’ll finally be able to pull small groups and work directly with the students again, and the screenings are the first step towards that.

Also, I’m finding that most people don’t actually understand how much work goes into being an ESL instructor. When I was describing to a coworker everything I had to do before I could even think about beginning the screenings, and then what would need to take place after, etc. she got this astonished look on her face and said, “Oh. So, you’re actually, like, really busy?” Which makes me chuckle, because it’s the same as how most people don’t actually understand what hard work goes into teaching Pre-K or Kindergarten. It’s amazing, really.

 

In the After

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but After started four months ago.

School started back up for me this past Monday. Just professional development this week, the kids come tomorrow. This week I did test runs with what to pack so I can have quick, small, protein-packed edibles throughout the day to keep the almost-nausea and lightheadedness at bay. Tried to figure out at what points throughout the day I need to make sure I’m ingesting something.

I’m feeling very out of place, lacking a group. As the school’s ESL instructor I’m an island unto myself. Which generally I’m completely fine with, but during PD week it’s like being the new kid in a high school cafeteria. Even though I’m not actually new. And I’m grappling a bit with the differences in this position versus my usual general education classroom role. I’m used to have 25 littles constantly surrounding me all day. Though I still believe this teaching move will be a good one, it’s difficult adapting.

And being back at school, I find I feel a bit like a leper again. Like I’ve got a scarlet M on my chest for miscarriage. The teacher whose pregnancy matched my own is of course in her third trimester. Seeing her is still difficult, but not paralyzing. I even made myself ask if they’d chosen a name and said how lovely the name was. But I got the vibe she didn’t really want to talk to me. Now, of course, there’s my second baby, but no one there (except one) knows about that yet.

We had an appointment for March baby on Monday. Thankfully, the midwife we met with this time was so much better than the nurse practitioner I had at six weeks. More compassionate, less put-out by my mere presence. She swung us an ultrasound, which we were grateful for. We were able to see March baby, watch it wiggle around and wave its tiny appendages. We were told the heartbeat and growth were where they should be.

We were relieved, and a bit elated. But for me, the twelve week scan is the Big One. The first major hurdle we need to get through. We need March baby to still be alive at twelve weeks. But to be honest, with each week that passes I’m letting myself hope a little more and fear a little less. Which is good, that’s what I want. Hubs has started asking more about telling people, which is also positive.

I’m struggling with telling my dad. It’s beginning to feel wrong that other people know now when he still doesn’t, but it’s difficult for me. I know he didn’t mean to cause me more hurt, but when I told him about losing Charlie he first said he was sorry, then said “these things happen”, then asked if it was something I had done. Later, when I was trying to share with him how we were really doing, how talking about it was helping me cope, he seemed more concerned with how I might be making other people uncomfortable. After that, I didn’t try to talk to him about it anymore. I felt very strongly that he was one of those people who would prefer I pretend Charlie never existed. And until recently, I didn’t realize that not only was I hurt, but I was also angry with him. I want to tell him about March baby, but I don’t want to do it until I’ve made perfectly clear that Charlie existed and mattered and I won’t ever pretend otherwise. So I’m feeling pretty stuck by that. I don’t really want to tell him over the phone, because I’m pretty sure I’ll cry. I don’t want to email it, because that’s impersonal. I’m in a quandary.

I’m also trying to figure out what to get my mom for her birthday, and how to go about celebrating hub’s birthday in September since he might be out at a job site.

After is a collective oddity of consciousness sometimes.

 

Gray in the gray matter

I always tell the kids they have beautiful brains in their heads. I like to think that if they don’t remember anything else about kindergarten when they grow up, they’ll remember that — that they have a beautiful brain. That they have a beautiful brain they can use to be a beautiful person; for who they are, not what they look like. I like to think that one day, if I get the chance to have a child of my own, I’ll be able to give that to them as well. If.

I have a beautiful brain, and I use it for good things, at least I try. But sometimes I feel like it’s not operating on all cylinders since the miscarriage. Like it’s been altered, changed. I guess it has. I like information, I like to understand, I like to know the why of things, and I haven’t gotten that in quite some time. I get that the world is full of gray areas, I even respect that. We’d lose an awful lot of life if everything was always black and white. But all the gray in my gray matter right now is kind of difficult. I can feel myself moving through, going forward, and I know objectively that that’s good. That’s coping, and coping is positive. And a big part of me wants to go and do and be, but another big part of me just wants to stay and rest. I’m scared a lot; a quiet scared, but it’s still there. The what-ifs for the potential future plague me, because right now most of them are in the negative arena.

This new position I got, it should excite me, energize me. And before, the idea of it did. But now it’s after, and though I still think it’s a good move, I’m not looking forward to it like I want to be.

I’ve done a grand total of one thing on my summer list in the past two and a half weeks. One. I haven’t been a shut in, but I haven’t really “seized the day” either.

I kind of feel like every day I’m fighting something I can’t see. Do you know what I mean? Do you ever feel like that?

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.

For the full poem: Invictus by William Ernest Henley

I’ll be honest; I used to go hook, line, and sinker for the idea of fate. Or meant-to-be. Or God’s plan. There are days when it’s kind of comforting to think that your life is already set on a very particular course, and that all you have to do is show up and everything will work itself out “as it should be”.

But then I thought, what the hell? What about all the crap — I mean really, truly, horrible and heinous things — that people all over this earth are subjected to every day? That was planned for them before they even drew their first breath? And I kind of fell out of being enamored with the whole idea.

I much prefer to believe that I am in charge of my life. I make my own choices. I handle things the way I decide to handle them. I steer myself in the direction I want to go. Now, does this always work out the way I’d want it to? Nope, definitely not. Does it mean the choices I make are always the correct ones? No. Does it mean I actually get complete control over what happens? Abso-flippin-lutely not. Take, for example, the fact that I lost my baby for no discernible reason. Didn’t get any say in that at all. But it does mean that I can try. It means that life doesn’t happen to me, I happen to my life.

Even so, I will admit that sometimes a part of me does hold on to the meant-to-be a little bit. Case in point, I very much feel I was meant to be a teacher. Could I be or do something else? Sure. But I don’t feel like it would align my heart and soul and mind the way teaching does. I also feel like I was meant to be a mother. Could I live a good life without being a mother? Of course. But there would always be a piece missing for me.

But even with the part of me that holds out on my fate-schmate stance, I still truly feel that I am in charge of my life (as much as I possibly can be), and that my own free will is a legit thing. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.

 

 

Change of [summer] plans

LittleFalls

Though I am a teacher, my summers have never been full of a “break”. Most years I always lined up a summer job, and if not that than I was taking grad classes full time. This summer, I had planned on actually taking a break due to my pregnancy. I was planning on spending the summer relaxing and daydreaming and getting ready for my baby to come. I envisioned creating the calmest nursery space that would eventually be able to be easily transitioned to a child’s bedroom. Purchasing baby clothes and washing them with Dreft. Finding out whether it was a baby boy or a baby girl. Settling on a name. Feeling the baby move. Slowly planning the baby shower with one of my cousins for Labor Day weekend. But when the baby died, I was staring at a summer that suddenly seemed really bleak. Now, I would be taking the break to work on healing my heart somehow.

Like libraries and bookstores, being in the woods, out in nature, has always felt like a type of church. Being there calms me, brings me some peace. I decided I would spend my summer exploring places within a certain radius of where I live that would feed my soul, so to speak. So I did some research, and pulled up Google maps, and made a list of places where I could day-trip. Several nature preserves, hiking trails, wildflower preserves, lakes and rivers, state parks, arboretums, botanical gardens. I added a few small museums for good measure as well. I’m glad to have some sort of direction for my summer, especially since I’m anticipating I’ll have lots of time to think and dwell.

In between these mini-trips, I’ll be preparing for the next school year; because teachers never actually take the whole summer off, even if they decided to take the summer off.

This ain’t my first rodeo, but it’s a bittersweet symphony

My first two years of teaching, I cried so hard on the last day of school because I just couldn’t bear to see those babies go. More seasoned teachers told me that would pass, but at the time, I couldn’t even fathom a time when I wouldn’t cry at the end of the year, because those kids just get so deep in my heart.

Turns out, they were right. Since my third year, I haven’t cried on the last day, I’ve looked forward to summer. Now, before you go thinking inaccurate thoughts, it wasn’t summer “break”, because I always had a summer job and/or classes I was taking, but I looked forward to a change. Not that I loved the kids any less, I didn’t. They still get into my heart and they’ll always be “my kids”. But I think as I’ve gotten older and more into adulthood and come in to my adult life a little more, I have more things and people that matter to me; a broader perspective, I guess.

And, TBH, there are just some kids I am fully ready to send on. There are also those that drove me nuts at the beginning of the year, and by the end I am their biggest champion and will go to the mat for them every time. I did that just this week, actually.

But. Today I got some handwritten thank-you notes from some of the kids, and they were adorable and one said she didn’t want school to be over because she didn’t want to leave her FIRST teacher. And one of the parents took an end-of-the-year picture of her daughter with me and our classroom IA, and then sent it to the school telling them how great her daughter’s school year was, and how much she had learned, and how thankful she was. And you know about the thank-you message from earlier this week. And another mom sent in a book for me about coping with the loss of your baby, with the kindest note about how it had helped her when she went through this grief.

But. Without knowing it at the time, today was the last day of me being in a general education classroom.

There was an ESL teacher opening at our school and I applied for it earlier in the spring. Before my miscarriage, before the world split into “before” and “after”. The ESL teacher and I had worked together closely at the school, and because I had my ESL cert and truly loved working with those students, I had been pulling the incoming ESL kindergarteners into my classroom as it was. When I found out that she was retiring, I was adamant that whoever filled her position needed to be as invested in those kids as she had been. Then I realized, if I didn’t at least try, I would regret it. Because I was already invested in these kids. The youngest ones, but also the oldest since I had started my time at this school teaching middle school Language Arts.

I interviewed shortly after I returned to school after losing the baby, and hadn’t heard a word since. I had gotten to the point where I was pretty calm about the idea of not getting it. Given everything that’s happened recently, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I stayed in kindergarten. I was ready. It would be fine. Then, this morning, as the kids are of course going nuts and we’re trying to get the last of their classroom stuff into their bookbags, the head honcho calls the classroom and asks to see me. This has never happened.

When I went to see him, he told me he would be recommending me to the board to be appointed as the new ESL teacher. If I really wanted it, he stressed. Which I did, and I told him so. But it is a little bittersweet. I almost feel like I didn’t have time to emotionally prepare to leave the classroom. I love that I’ll still have contact with students all through the school, and that I’m able to move into this position at my current school. I love that I’ll be able to work with a broader range of teachers from primary to secondary. I’m grateful, and excited, but a part of me is still a little sad, I guess. Which I didn’t expect.