Naomi Shihab Nye, how right you are.
2016. While I was originally tempted to throw a match on that beast and sing “We don’t need no water let that m___ f_____ burn” and forget it ever happened, upon reflection I see that 2016 actually did treat me pretty well and there were far more highs than lows. This post isn’t really about teaching. It’s more about what I have learned as a teacher, a wife, a mother, and more than anything else this year, as a writer.
Starting in January, I focused on my health, including learning to love yoga, eating better, working out in the morning (what?! Who am I even?) and completing several rounds of 21 Day Fix. I still love me some pizza and lazing around reading a good book, but now I balance it out much (a little bit) better.
On the mom/wife front I cheered on my kids throughout the year as they participated in dance, gymnastics, basketball, baseball, and soccer and I got to cheer on my husband at many a local bar as he played music. I love the busy craziness that is our relentless pursuit of our varying passions and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In February I was selected as a 2016 Daffodil Educator of the Year (Thanks Princess Sammy, you da real MVP) which led to me riding in the back of a cherry red ’67 Mustang in a parade. Bucket list item I didn’t even know I needed or wanted on my bucket list. Check!
I got to cheer on my girl Emily at the school, regional, and state finals for Poetry Out Loud in February and March. Even though she didn’t win state, it was incredible to watch her go so far and do so well.
I focused a lot on professional development, including AVID strategies, mentoring matters, the BEST Equity Colloquium, and many other meaningful and relevant opportunities to improve my practice as both a teacher and, more importantly, a teacher leader. This led to working as part of a team to write and publish the new Washington State Mentoring Standards during the months of May and June (coming soon!)
Perhaps the biggest honor of 2016 was being selected by the senior class at EHS to read names at graduation/watching some of the students I had taught ALL 4 YEARS of high school graduate. I felt like a proud mama. Still do. Look at you guys all graduated and doing real life human things. Adulting and whatnot. I like to think I helped a little with that.
I also made a career change in June. I left the classroom and building that felt like home to me to try something new at PHS. I miss Eatonville every. single. day. That’s another post entirely. (No really, I already wrote it in October. It’s called Burning Out or Up.)
In July, my brother-in-law married the love of his life so now I get an awesome new sister. My kids got the honor of being the flower girl and the ring bearer. Taylor looked so gorgeous in her dress, and Payton of course was just the most handsome stud I’d ever seen. Evidence:
The next day my son turned 10. Yes, 10 FREAKING years old. It’s a magical mystery how that little dude is already double digits. I am blessed beyond words to be his mother and I feel like I should get an award for keeping him alive and well this long. Who hands those out? I’m still waiting…
At the end of July Justin and I decided to do something wild. We embarked on an epic journey with the kids. All four of us crammed into the Jeep for hours and hours a day as we made our way down through Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and back up to Washington. Maybe we were crazy and didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but that was the best part.
Upon reflection, this trip was quite simply the highlight of our year and perhaps our lives. We visited family and friends, we camped in tents and in cabins, we laughed, we swam in the ocean, and we were finally able to take the kids to the happiest place on earth: DISNEYLAND!
We also saw (gazed in wonderment and awe at) the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and our favorite: Zion National Park. My baby girl got to wake up on her 8th birthday in a tent in Utah, deep in the heart of our adventure. I wouldn’t have it any other way. All those long hours in the car brought some of the best bonding, laughing, wondering, conversation, singing, and joking. Plus we ended up with a pretty sweet mixed tape as the soundtrack for our video featuring everything from Weezer to Tupac.
I appreciated so much about that trip, and the time I spent with my little family. Uninterrupted quality time together is such a rarity in our normal daily busy lives. It was perfection. Every dirty, stinky (we were camping after all!), cramped minute of it. I love doing life with them. I love us. But that’s another post too. (No really, that one’s called A Teacher’s AWEgust.)
In September I started teaching at my new high school. To say it’s been challenging would be an understatement. This is where my year starts to become very, very difficult. This career change, along with increasing tension leading up to and in the wake of the election, has made this probably one of the most emotionally difficult years of my life. But, those are the flammable parts I suppose, and I’d still rather be ashes than dust. If anything, I am learning some pretty important lessons about who I am, what I want, and how I can really and truly make a difference.
This led to my increased participation with the organization Teachers United. In January I attended an advocacy training and committed to writing a guest blog post. In September I finally decided to go for it with a piece about teacher compensation. Because of the wider audience, it was then published by the Washington Post. Which basically makes me feel like a badass.
*Started from the bottom now we here.*
Here’s the link if you missed this gem. Just don’t read the comments unless you want to lose all faith in humanity. Trust me.
Finally, throughout the year I honed my writing/voice/message by creating this blog, which led to:
- Attending the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession’s Writer’s Retreat in July
- The guest post for TU which was published in the Washington Post
- A guest post for Project Happiness about learning to love yoga
- Being selected as a 2017 Teacher Leader with corelaboratewa.org
- Being accepted as a member of the Jane’s Fellowship class 7 for 2017
These are all significant because to me it means I am learning to trust my voice. I am not only teaching my students about writing, but I am using writing as a means to affect positive change in our society, whether it’s about cultivating inner peace or the need to compensate teachers fairly. I am doing my part.
As I always tell my students, we don’t learn from doing, we learn from thinking about doing. In reflection, we don’t learn from having done, but from thinking about having done. When I look back on my year, I see a year of incredible growth, opportunity, and learning. Without certain changes and experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am right now. I guess I can hold off the temptation to watch the whole thing go up in flames. After all, Shihab Nye knows how it ends.
“Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves, / only the things I didn’t do / crackle after the blazing dies.”