What the Carnival Brings…

What the Carnival Brings…

I’ve never much liked roller coasters. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. I have only ever been on one roller coaster, and peer pressure alone is what coerced me to ride and what pressured me to say I liked it. The reality is that I’ve never been on another. I don’t even like the ferris wheel. A few years ago, my husband and I took our kids to the local carnival, and my over-active imagination kept picturing my small children slipping through the guards and falling to the ground… Nope. Heights and carnival rides are not for me.

Then why is it that my life tends to resemble one? Perhaps not quite as cliché as the metaphor of a roller coaster, but I think my life could be compared to a carnival. The whirly-twirly rides which make me want to return my last meal; the crazy house with the shifty stairs, conversely-moving sidewalks, the mirrors which make me question who I know myself to be; the sugar-laced and grease-laden food which makes you roll your eyes in ecstasy but you know you will pay for later; the multitudes of people of all kinds; music of the concert in the arena or of the rides beckoning the crowds to give them a try; the sales pitches of the carnies, coercing passers-by to try their luck at the rigged game; screams of delight, cries of laughter, tears of toddlers hyped up on sugar and sunshine.

I’m not going to pretend to be prophetic; every person’s life goes through cycles of highs and lows. Perhaps I’ve just been taking stock of where I am currently standing, and the noisy carnival describes the turmoil and delight I am battling with.

I am standing dead center of the midway at the carnival, and it is early evening, just before the sun has gone down. The lights on the rides around me blink and wink in time to the music of the chaos around me. I stand still, unnoticed by the masses which pass by hand in hand or in tightly formed groups. The heat from the day begins to subside as an evening chill settles on the crowds, and the sounds which surround me drown out anything that makes sense. The tinny music from the fun house, the laughter of the teenagers who just passed me by, the clank of the mettle as gates are opened and shut, safety harnesses are buckled and clipped.

If I close my eyes, I can still see it, but the horizon seems to tip and roll. My brain won’t turn off, can’t just take in my surroundings one at a time. It is receiving everything at once, and it keeps me glued to my spot on the pavement. Just as I consider surrendering to the chaos which threatens to swallow me, I take a breath. I take a step. I smile.

I can do this. It’s just a roller coaster.

Catalyst of Change

Catalyst of Change

The times they are a’changin’… Thanks, Bob. Thanks so much for stating the obvious.

There are big changes coming for my family, and I find myself in a weird place. I am the catalyst for bringing this change about. Everyone was content until I paused to ask the questions; now everything has changed. And while I don’t regret being the catalyst for this change, I can’t say I’m not apprehensive and confused… even lost at what the future might hold for me.

That sounds so selfish. The reality is that I made this jump for my family. This move is the best thing for my husband, and it will be a great thing for my kids. While I know they will be leaving some things behind us when we move, I feel like I am the one giving up the most… walking away from a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Just. Walking. Away.

And I don’t have a job lined up. I have no idea where my family and I will live. I have no idea what this opportunity will turn out like. Yet, I feel like this is the right move for everyone in my family.

I walked into this profession in awe, hoping to glean some wisdom from the teachers who I believed to be the BEST teachers at THE elite school in our state. I created relationships out of nothing, I kept showing up, I observed and lent a hand and did what I could to make a place for myself in this community which I desperately wanted to be a part of. Observations turned into methods classes and more observations and more networking. That turned into student teaching and then into subbing. Long term subbing turned into a one-year contract. I just kept showing up, paying my dues, biding my time until they realized I was one of them and officially gave me keys to the building.

And they did.

I was a REAL teacher. I had my OWN classroom. I had NO idea what I was getting into… I had no idea I had been giving pieces of my heart away to students for a couple of years at that point. I had no idea that the real work was just beginning.

Every new teacher has their work cut out for them: learning the curriculum, learning names, figuring out your classroom procedures and practices, learning to meet the students where they are rather than where you expected them to be. Add on top of that figuring out how to work the copy machine, keeping track of wandering students with bathroom passes, and how to dodge the landmines of sour coworkers… Being a teacher, especially a brand new teacher, is hard work. On top of all the typical new teacher traumas, I also had to deal with being undercut by a sociopath and narcissist in addition to being consistently thrown under the bus by my own principal.

Those bad times are easy to remember and easy to let the bitter creep in and take root. Those were also times when I grew immensely. I learned who I was as a teacher, what my philosophy about students and education was, and how the rubber actually met the road in the classroom. I had amazing mentors and coaches, built lasting relationships with students, and began to realize what kind of teacher I wanted to be every day. I found my stride, and I found a home.

Now several years later, I stand in front of a classroom full of kids and know I am home. I wander around the room listening to their conversations and their learning, and I feel like a parent watching my own children navigate their surroundings successfully. When I look up from my work and see a student come in with a smile to just sit and hang out with me, I feel like I have made a difference. I have become a part of this community. I have this family that comes and goes with the ringing of the bell, and part of my identity is wrapped up in those smiling, and scowling, faces that walk through my door. By now I should have run out of pieces of my heart to give away, but I haven’t.

Now I look ahead. I have no idea what the future holds. I know my faith is leading me forward. For once, I am choosing my own children over the children I call mine between the ringing of the bells. It’s breathtaking. It’s heartbreaking. It’s time.

I just hope that my faith leads me to belonging in this new community, a classroom with a new set of faces, a new sense of home, regrown pieces of my heart.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

            (Bob Dylan, 1963)