Me + 40

You guys, today I turned 40 years old.

40. Years. Old.

It sounds significant to me because I’m entering a new decade of my life. But also because I remember my mom turning 40. I remember my mother-in-law turning 40, for Pete’s sake. I had already been dating her son for two years at the time. Yes, Jon and I were young, but still.

birthday selfie 40Looking back over the past few years, it seems that I celebrated my birthdays by making lists of what I would do at 35, 36, 37 and 38. And then last year I marked the occasion by making a list of what I would not do at 39. Ironically, I did many of the things I said I would not. For instance my hair is significantly longer than it was at this time last year and I started writing in a journal when I said I would not grow my hair out or start journaling. So I’m not much better at honouring slacker non-goals than aspirational actual goals.

Luckily, I’m also old enough to not really care anymore.

I spent my 30s in the trenches of motherhood. On my 30th birthday I had a one-year-old. In the past 10 years I birthed a second baby, left my engineering job, changed a lot of diapers, worked at home as a freelance writer, agonized over childcare, and found my calling. There was a lot of soul-searching, a lot of time spent doing things for other people, and a lot of waiting for the right timing.

While I’m having some existential angst at being officially middle-aged, this birthday is also celebratory for me. I’m wrapping up my teaching degree and applying for jobs. I have an interview next week. If my 30s were about babies and laying groundwork, my 40s are shaping up to be about enjoying the fruits of all that labour. I worked hard. My kids are now two really cool people who can do lots of things for myself. I am realizing my goal of becoming a teacher, and I am so happy about it.

It feels good to be able to look back on the past year – and the past decade – and see how far I’ve come. It also feels good to be excited about where I am going next.

This is me at 40. I am happy to be here.

Why I Love Being a Teacher

My student teaching journey has rounded a corner. It feels good.

student teacher whistleMy practicum is over (and I miss my students so much). My final reports have been signed off on. My portfolio is complete. My job applications are submitted to the school districts I most want to work in. I am registered for summer classes and excited about the opportunity to learn about environmental education in particular. And now? Now I wait. While I wait I’m playing with my kids, working in my garden, catching up on reading (both professional and personal), and looking forward to graduating this fall and being a bona fide teacher.

Over the past few months in my grade 6/7 classroom I learned a lot about what it means to be a teacher. The good news is that my experiences solidified my decision to pursue this new career. When I am in the classroom working with students I feel like I fit. Teaching is awesome and I feel so privileged to be starting out in this field. What makes it awesome? Type A personality that I am, I made a list.

Things I Love About Teaching

  • Hanging out with kids every day
  • Blowing my students’ minds (subtracting negative integers, anyone?)
  • Hearing insights from students that blow my mind
  • Making art – and seeing my students make much better art
  • Playing dodgeball and badminton and California kickball
  • Having a whistle and a desk bell
  • Introducing children to great books
  • Getting to know families and neighbourhoods and communities
  • Watching a student work and work and finally just get it
  • Creating hands-on science activities, or, to put it another way, letting my students mix colours together in test tubes in a way that they actually learn something
  • Throwing class parties
  • Honouring the uniqueness in everyone
  • Bonding with my students, and watching them bond with each other
  • Helping kids to talk through problems and find solutions
  • Field trips!
  • Working with other members of the educational community who constantly inspire me
  • Watching my students assume leadership roles and excel in the broader school community
  • The funny things kids sometimes write or say
  • Marking math tests (yes, I actually do love this)
  • Sharing the amazing work that my students are doing with their parents
  • Welcoming newcomers to Canada
  • Choosing cool assignments
  • Throwing away the lesson plan and getting together for a rich class discussion on the carpet

student teacherstudent teacher
 
There is so much more I can say. So much. But right now I have books to read and TV shows to watch and weeds to pull. Break time is sweet, indeed.

Spring Breakdown

March has been a month of highs and lows for me. I experienced some of the most stressful days of my life, when I was trying to balance the busiest parts of being a student teacher with still being a passable mom and not entirely losing myself in the process. There were family outings to pick up ski passes for next year and do some sledding on a snow-covered mountain. There were family get togethers and dinners with friends and date nights with my husband. There was lots and lots of Easter chocolate. And there were mornings relaxing on the couch watching Supernatural on Netflix and giving my brain a break in the midst of writing my final report.

There were times when I thought I totally couldn’t do this and I should just give up, and times when I felt on top of the world and proud of everything I had accomplished.

And there was a lot of drinking tea, because that is just how I roll.

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

The end is in sight on this whole student teaching thing. I still have four months of schoolwork left to do over the summer, but the hardest part is almost over. I am pretty proud of myself. I am even more proud of my students. They are more awesome than chocolate ice cream.

I am also proud of my own two kids. They have been very patient with me. While I engaged in some benign neglect, and they watched lots of TV (Pokemon is an especial favourite right now), I got a lot done. My hope is that the example I’m setting of pursuing a goal and following my heart and always learning offsets the time I’m spending in school. Fingers crossed, it will all be good in the end.

This has been a month with some really great moments, and some really hard moments. Some really busy moments and some moments when I collapsed in total exhaustion. I think maybe that’s how you know it was actually a month when you really lived. You were just too wrapped up in each and every moment to really stop and think. That was my March.

My practicum wraps up on April 8, and my semester finishes on April 15. And then some other big things happen in the few weeks before school starts again. My husband and I will celebrate our 25 year dating anniversary. I will turn 40 (yes, we were babies when we got together). I will start looking for a job. And I will finally have the time to check out the new Fuller House series on Netflix. Full House was my top secret guilty pleasure when I was 13, and I am the exact same age as Candace Cameron, so I am anticipating that this will be right up my alley.

Priorities? I have them.

I hope your March was great. What have you been up to lately?

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Precious Downtime

You guys, school. School! School.

school student teacher desk

My desk at school is not a tidy place

I have finished the first six weeks of my student teaching practicum, and I have four weeks left to go (plus two weeks of Spring Break when I will be back in class myself). And it’s awesome. Every day is different. My students are alternately inspiring and challenging, but always amazing. I am learning so much about myself, about what it means to be an educator, and about how to stand in front of a class of 29 twelve-year-olds without losing your cool. On the whole, it’s going well. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am doing it. I know I can pull this student teaching thing off.

All of the time and money and work has not been in vain. Phew.

All the same, working part-time and student teaching full-time and being the mom of two kids isn’t easy. I’m extremely busy. Which is okay, because this is what I signed up for. It’s a short period of time and if I don’t get as much downtime as I would like, well, it will be worth it in the long run. All those lesson plans I’m writing are giving me experience and helping my days to flow more smoothly.

Right now, though, my recreational time is pretty much limited to 20 minutes on the occasional evening when I can watch a little bit of TV. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, a couple of hours on a weekend when I can hang out with my kids.

When I do get some family time, right now we’re playing a lot of board games. My kids are huge fans of Apples to Apples Junior. My son Jacob is only seven and the recommended age is nine and up, but somehow he always wins. He’s an Apples to Apples Junior ringer.

downtime relaxing

Taking a moment to breathe

When the board games are done, sometimes my kids watch a movie together while my husband and I have an actual conversation. It’s extremely decadent. But first, we have to referee the movie choice. It’s always a bone of contention. They pull up Netflix and then each kid makes their case. At the moment my daughter favours Inside Out or live action fairy tales like Cinderella or Enchanted. My son is currently into Home and How to Train Your Dragon. Eventually, though, they settle on something and I make them snacks and they watch their movie and I breathe and relax for at least a little while.

And then, when the movie is over and the kids go to bed, my husband and I get our chance to enjoy some Netflix. We usually watch a comedy special. And I laugh, and remember that life is sort of ridiculous. And somehow things seem easier and less serious than they did a few hours earlier. Perspective is a good thing to have.

This will all be over before I know it. For now, I’m milking those little moments of downtime for all they’re worth.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Keeping Confidence High

2016 netflix goalsEvery year I choose a word to represent something I want more of in the months ahead. As I shared at the beginning of the month my word for 2016 is confidence. I did this for a couple of reasons, but my big, overarching motivation was that I was about to start my student teaching practicum.

When you’re a student teacher – or, at least, when you’re a student teacher here in British Columbia – the practicum is sort of the centrepiece of the whole operation. You spend two months teaching alongside a practicing classroom teacher. You learn on the job, receiving regular feedback from your sponsor teacher and your university advisors. You plan and deliver lessons, construct units, create tests, mark student work and all that other stuff. You write about your experiences and provide evidence that you are learning and growing.

I’m not whining. I am so privileged to be able to share in the learning of my students. I am enjoying it more than I can say, and I am learning a lot. And I’m not just learning about what it means to be a teacher, I’m learning about myself, honing my interpersonal skills and having my worldview challenged on a daily basis. It’s an amazing experience, and the challenges are absolutely worth it.

It’s also testing my confidence in myself. It’s all so new. I frequently feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and that’s not exactly confidence-inspiring. Fortunately I am able to get a little perspective. I had an epiphany recently that I don’t have to be good at this yet because I’m just learning. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing after two weeks in a classroom. This should be obvious, but as a recovering perfectionist it’s something that I sometimes struggle to remember.

By the time April rolls around I’ll be wrapping up my practicum, finishing my final exam and looking forward to a lighter workload in the summer followed by graduation. And, hopefully, employment. Right now my goal is to take care of myself and keep my confidence high (enough) to get through in one piece.

The first thing I’m doing is taking a yoga class after school two days a week. One of the staff members at my school is an instructor and she’s teaching us in the library. I’m looking forward to this because I have worked out exactly 0 minutes since 2016 started. Stretching will help.

confidence netflixThe second thing I’m doing is returning to skiing. I recently hit the slopes for the first time in 25 years. And guess what? I can still do it! And what’s more, I’m actually a better skier than my husband. This may be the only athletic pursuit where I have him beat, especially if you don’t include things I’ve done that he hasn’t. For example, I’m a better tap dancer, but he’s never tried it so it’s not a fair comparison. Whizzing down the mountain is a definite confidence booster.

The final thing I’m doing is watching feel-good TV. Top of the list? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I watched the series myself over Christmas break, and then my husband recently started watching it so I’ve re-watched some episodes. Leaving aside the poor teaching example, the show is funny and leaves me feeling good. If Kimmy can pull off her transition, I can pull off mine. Even listening to the theme song puts me in a good mood.

Now that I’m finished with Kimmy, I could use some recommendations for other feel-good shows. Netflix recommends On the Way to School which looks great (particularly for a student teacher), but I would love other ideas. What do you watch on Netflix when you need a mood-lifter? Tell me!

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

A Word for 2016: Confidence

For the past number of years I’ve been choosing a word at New Year’s to represent what I wanted to bring into my life in the 12 months ahead. In 2011 that word was space. In 2012 I chose clarity. In 2013 I chose presence. For 2014 my word was forgiveness. And for 2015 I chose strength. For 2016, choosing was a struggle. In the end, though, I have settled on confidence.

confidence

Choosing a word is about setting an intention for the year. In 2015 my choice of strength was meant to help me acknowledge my own strength. Because when push comes to shove, I am a person who can weather adversity and get things done. Rather than bringing something new into my life, I wanted to focus on what I already have.

My choice of the word confidence, on the other hand, is entirely aspirational. I have long identified myself as grappling with impostor syndrome. That is, even when I am doing something, I feel like I’m pretending. Like I’m an impostor. And now that I’m back in school and about to start my long practicum as a student teacher, this is a huge thing. It’s hard not to feel like an impostor when you’re just learning, but those feelings aren’t helpful. Because you know what? We all have more to offer than we recognize. Any teacher will say this about students – about how we can be gobsmacked by insights from a seven-year-old. I want to give myself the same credit. So in 2016, as I complete my schooling and embark on a new career, I would like to find confidence.

The word confidence is also significant for another reason. Confidence can mean trusting yourself or someone else. However, it can also be about holding your tongue. Keeping your confidence means not sharing those things that should not be shared. It means using your discretion about when to speak, and when to keep silent.

In addition to finding confidence in my abilities, I would also like to find confidence in my words. I would like to choose them more thoughtfully. I would like to work on knowing when to share and when to keep my confidence. This actually cuts both ways, because while I am a talker who sometimes has no filter, I also have a hard time bringing other people into my confidence on a personal level. So I am both building closer relationships and choosing what I say more carefully.

Confidence is a tall order in so many ways, you guys. Sort of like going back to school full-time when you have kids.

2016 will be a big year for me. I am both excited and nervous, but I am choosing to embrace it no matter what it brings. With confidence.

How about you – are you choosing a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what it is, and how you’re setting your intentions for 2016!

Light and Hope

This is a dark time of year … the darkest, in fact. And so, since time immemorial, long before stories were written down or babies were laid to sleep in mangers humans have craved light. The promise that the darkness will not last. That the sun will return, and bring with it spring and a new season of plenty. Our ancient ancestors tracked the movement of celestial bodies and the rhythm of the seasons and in the midst of it all, they found hope.

Today, in the here and now, when I write down everything and carry around a little computer in my pocket that beeps at me constantly, I need hope. Some things never change. The cold and the dark still feel like too much. The world around us still affects us. We are not immune to feeling hopeless or sad or scared.

I seek out the light, because in the light there is hope. I bring a tree into my house and string it with lights. There are lights on my house. Lights in my rooms. Candles on bookshelves. A (gas) fire in my fireplace. Stories of a baby who was the light of the world and brought hope to nations. Stories of the rebirth of the light, the return of the sun. Stories of oil that lasted longer that it should have, its sacred flame illuminating the darkness.

candle light christmas

My children are naturally hopeful and optimistic, as most children are. They seem to carry light within and that brings me hope. But never does it shine more brightly than today. The presents, the food, the time with family, the decorations, the twinkling bulbs that festoon almost every house, these things all speak to children with a special voice.

Now that they are 10 and 7 my children don’t just enjoy these things, they drink them up like they are dying of thirst and they have found water. They look forward to this all year, and when it is here they are so fully immersed in it that it lights me up, too. It brings me hope. It reminds me of what it is like to be wholly in the moment, filled with joy, surrounded by love.

As they say on Game of Thrones, the night is dark and full of terrors. And I would add, the winter is cold and merciless, and of course winter is (always) coming. But here, as I celebrate Christmas surrounded by my family, there is hope. There is peace. There is an ancient story, as timeless as the world itself, reminding us that there is something to look forward to. The cold and dark are not all there is.

Let there be light. Let there be hope. Let there be Christmas.

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