Hop on over to Anjali’s to see my answer, and read her lovely introduction. Thanks again, Anjali!
While I’m not doing any formal workshops this summer, I’m still developing a lengthy list of summer projects for myself, which range from formalizing a list of classroom policies for my fall students to developing assignments for the new elective I’ll be teaching next spring. In addition to these kinds of practical matters, I try to always assign myself summer reading that will help me think about some bigger-picture aspects of my profession as well. Some of my favorite past choices included Teach Like a Champion, Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements and I Read It But I Don’t Get It. Each of these books has informed my teaching in different and concrete ways.
This summer, the front-runners seem to be Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom by bell hooks and Imagine: How Creativity Works, which touch on two critical areas that are more abstract as far as pedagogy, but no less important.
I’m thinking I may also go back and revisit some of my past choices, as I’m making some bigger changes to my ninth grade curriculum and shuffling the books into a new sequence, in addition to this new elective. I’ve got a few lessons and assignments I need to rework, and a few new ideas I want to map out for myself in preparation for executing them next year for the first time. I’ve also got some books to review that I’ll be teaching next spring.
I’m looking forward to digging into this kind of reflective work, free from the daily grind of grading and meetings and all the necessary mechanics of making a school run. While it’s lovely to be able to work on my own schedule (and even poolside, if I choose to), it’s also mentally refreshing to be able to step back and think deeper about what I do, why I do it, and how I could do it better.
“At the beginning of this year, English was the class I was most afraid of, and now at the end of the year, I think it’s the only class that hasn’t given me a panic attack. Thanks for watching out for the dyslexics and making everyone feel safe in your classroom.”
“My mom read over a paper of mine I wrote for my theater class, and when she was finished, she said, ‘Wow, Ms. Regales must be a really good teacher, because you have made so much progress in writing this year.’”
“Ms. Regales, the only word I can think of to describe you is SUNSHINE! If you have ever had a bad day, your students never knew it, and you always seemed so excited to see us and teach us this year.”
“This class was challenging and exciting; I never felt drowsy once, which cannot be said for all my classes.”
“You are a hard grader but that pushes us to the next level”
“You helped me see how hard I have to work to succeed”
“You care about our success and made me feel like you really wanted me to do well”
These are all statements my students have either said to me in the past two weeks, or have written on their end-of-year course evaluation. This year’s crop of freshmen is an especially sweet one, I think, but also, their words really made me think and smile and feel appreciated. What more could a busy teacher ask for, as the school year winds to a satisfying close?
Yesterday, my little girls entered double digits, and I just can’t believe it.
Sophie came with me Monday night to hear our gospel choir concert, and it was such a special night. She wore, in true Sophie style, a pink-and-purple leopard print top, sparkly pink-sequin-and-rhinestone shoes, and a red hibiscus hair clip. Yet all of that was outshone by her own personality; she is a traveling ray of sunshine with an oversize heart. She bobbed her head and swayed to the music, and shouted with joy at the end of each song, and when it was over, she was bubbling with satisfaction and excitement. At the dinner afterward, I watched her beam with pleasure as the older girls noticed her and she made friends everywhere she went.
Lucy is our little ballerina, and I’ve so enjoyed watching her stretch herself, literally and figuratively. She has her first recital in a few weeks, and while I know it is making her anxious, she is also delighting in her costume and not letting her fear shut her down. She is our planner, always wanting to be prepared and organized and on time, but she has also fallen in love with Adele and draws pages of outfits and ensembles. Lucy has a guiding sense of morality that is striking in a kid her age, and I am thrilled to think how her careful, precise little personality will continue to bloom.
I didn’t get this post up yesterday on their actual birthday, as work has been a new and uncomfortable level of hectic these days. I didn’t pick up the bags of lollipops they requested to be able to give out to their classmates, and I have no idea what goody bags their guests will go home with after their pool party on Saturday. But I’m feeling grateful and lucky and blessed nonetheless, because I have two fantastic ten-year-old daughters, and life is just fine.
It’s the time of year when the days between you and summer sometimes seem to stretch out like saltwater taffy, and it’s the time when it doesn’t seem possible that you have enough days left to get everything done that has to get done.
It’s the season for Field Day and end-of-year teacher gifts, and at my house, it’s time for birthday parties and graduations. It’s time for ballet recitals and sinus infections, for blooming baskets hanging on the front porch, for daydreams about the pool and making summer plans.
The seniors are saying goodbye, and the freshmen are moving forward, and I’m thinking about how much I’ll miss them. I’m thinking about new experiments to try next year, and wondering who my new students will be.
At the end of the school year, I usually have the same patterns in my thoughts and daydreams; I know I’ve written a version of this post before. But this year, the fall is more of a question mark than it has been in years. My girls will be in a new school for the first time in five years, and my husband will be out of school for the first time in four years. For the first time ever, my children will be students at the school where I teach.
This year has been an especially vivid one already, full of milestones and wonderful experiences. While I’m apprehensive about all the changes to come, it certainly won’t be boring!
Everyone knows that the first double-digit birthday is an exciting one for kids; if you don’t know, go find a nine-year-old and they’ll tell you all about it. But lately, it’s really been knocking me for a loop too, the fact that I’ve been a mother for such a substantial chunk of time already. My girls are turning ten this month, but in a way, I feel like I am too: turning ten as a mother.
Right now, right at this moment, I feel like I have a lot to be proud of from this first decade. My kids are healthy, strong girls. We’ve traveled and tried to introduce them to a lot of different experiences, as well as to the things we love the most, from Anne of Green Gables to Into the Woods and more. We’ve made countless healthy lunches, breakfasts, snacks and dinners, but we’ve also made cupcakes and cookies and eaten candy and hotdogs together. We’ve had Family Movie Nights and talks about nightmares, best friends, growing bodies and where babies come from. They have wonderful relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles who love them, and we have friends who might as well be family. We’ve talked about education and how desperately important it is. They are city girls who have also been to the beach, the country and the mountains. They are kind and polite (most of the time), smart and feisty and funny (all of the time). They live with two parents who love them, and have worked really hard to be good spouses to each other and good parents at the same time.
I’ve spent a lot of the past few days and weeks and months worrying: how will I teach them what they need to know? Where should we send them to school? Where should we live? Will they be okay away from me? How can I help them be healthy and strong, in every possible way? How can I teach them to be caring and thoughtful, and how can I teach them to be independent? Now partly, this is because I am a worrier: always have been and probably always will be. But I think also, this is the difficulty of parenting: every small decision seems high-stakes, you desperately want to do a good job, but there’s no road map, and you may not know whether you made the right choices for years to come (or ever!). You will make mistakes, inevitably, and you will never get it exactly right.
The next ten years are going to bring bigger variations on these same questions, and the day will probably come when they both leave home. I know I will worry and second-guess myself along the way, and I may never know whether we made the best choices. But at this point, at the end of our first decade together, the most important task has been accomplished: both my girls know exactly how much I love them.
Though we have experimented in the past, my children have never really been fans of summer camps, so our summers are usually unstructured, broken up by fun day trips, family visits and longer week-long trips, and featuring many long days at the pool.
This summer, we are planning a Civil War Summer, to take advantage of all of the wonderful resources and sites that exist in the Maryland-Virginia-Pennsylvania area. Here are some of the plans we’ve made so far:
- reading Little Women and other Civil War themed books
- Journaling, which I thought of after being inspired by this entry on summer journaling
- visiting as many Civil War sites as we can, within reasonable driving distance
- Trying Civil War recipes, dyeing with vegetables, and other fun craft/home projects I can find
We took our Girl Scout troop on a walking tour of a beautiful historic neighborhood recently, and it revived my determination that my kids will experience the richness that our region has to offer. There are so many battlefields and parks within a day’s drive of us, and they have learned a lot about the history of our state this year in school, so it seems the perfect time.
You guys, my kids are so old now.
I was filling out some paperwork recently for the upcoming school switch, and this line caught my attention: “Class of 2020.” That’s the year they will graduate from high school. How crazy is that? HIGH SCHOOL. I don’t know about you, but 2020 doesn’t actually seem all that far away.
In a few weeks, they will be ten. I’ve been a married mother of two for a decade now. Is this the reason that I’ve been feeling especially old lately, do you think?