The other day, I was sitting on the porch, drinking a cup of coffee, basking in the beauty of lazy summer mornings, just minding my own business when a browning leaf landed in my coffee mug. How rude. If that isn’t a sure sign that summer days are dwindling, I’m not sure what is. As Semisonic would sing, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how very fortunate I am to have some built-in time off of work. However, one of my friends started volunteering with teenagers this week and after I asked her how her first night went, she responded, “I know why you always need a nap now.” No matter how much I love my job, absence (or summer break) will always make my heart grow fonder and well rested.
It seems like just yesterday I said goodbye to my seniors, put the final grades in the gradebook, miraculously got my inbox to zero, and hightailed it right out of that building. The beginning of summer was filled with excitement and anticipation. It would be filled with time with family and friends, travel and adventure, and ideally, tackling that really ambitious work to-do list I created.
I had decided to move home for the summer. 10/10 I would do it again. Huge shoutout to Papa G for making it the place to be, letting me sleep in as long as I wanted, leaving the AC on all day, sharing his beautiful back porch with me, eating whatever I wanted for dinner, and always having a good bottle of wine around. I learned in the most brutal of ways that our time with those we love will never be as long as we want, so I am so grateful for the meals, walks, and conversations I got to share with him over the past few months. I also got to spend countless evenings with my best friend Katie. For those of you who live near your best friends, I hope you never take for granted that “come over and eat pizza and do nothing in particular with me” text. My days at home were lazy and filled with good coffee, good books, good music, a bit of yoga, and lots of love and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My summer was also filled with travels. Soon after school let out, I left for New Orleans with my dear friend Jackie, who is also a teacher. We joked that we were trying to get as far away from our students as possible (another reason I move home for the summer). Then I went straight from NOLA to Boston with my dad and my Aunt Lea. I got home, unpacked, did some laundry, said Happy Birthday, America, and then jumped on a plane to Spain. We also fit in an annual trip to St. Louis to cheer on my Cardinals, a weekend in Kentucky to visit my mom’s family, and we will cap of summer with a long lake weekend up north. I joked that my goal was to be in a different place every two weeks, and I think I truly accomplished that this summer. Which also led to a lot of napping when I did happen to be home.
By the end of the school year, I was averaging eight (large) cups of coffee a day. If I didn’t have enough coffee in my system, I turned into a real monster. In fact, one morning I was particularly coffee deprived, and my students could tell. They were talking about it in their next class and their teacher ended up delivering a cup of coffee to my classroom. The first step is admitting you have a problem. I knew attempting to cut down on coffee during the school year would be disastrous for everyone, so I held off until summer. I made a training plan to cut back my coffee consumption the way most people make a marathon training plan. I know, pathetic. I wanted to remember what a coffee buzz felt like again. After I got through the first few weeks of insane headaches, mood swings, super early bedtimes and multiple naps, I started to see improvements. The biggest was the drop in my average resting heart rate. Like 15 BPM changes in my average resting heart rate (thanks FitBit data). I’m down to one(ish) (large) cup of coffee every day. With school starting back up again next week, I don’t foresee that lasting long for the sake of my own sanity and the sanity of everyone around me, but hey, I’m proud it lasted as long as it did.
How about that super ambitious work to-do list? If picking out what I plan to wear on the first day of school counts as school prep, then I was very successful. To be honest, I sat down at this coffee shop today with the best of intentions of getting some work done, but hey, this blog isn’t going to write itself. I have had a few very productive spurts this summer. I attended some professional development this month and spent a few days setting up Ms. G’s Mathematical Wonderland (also known as my classroom). What I have done is a lot of reflecting on my work. It might not have been lesson planning or professional development, but it’s an important part of the work to do. It is what got me thinking about beginnings and endings.
Last year I began and ended my first year at my current school. Summer has come and gone. I’m about to begin a new year, and it is impossible to know what it will bring. I think back on my teaching last year and the relationships I formed with students and the ways I grew as a person and a teacher. I think about the things I did and what I would like to do differently. I wonder about the students who will be walking into my classroom next week and the yearlong journey we will embark on. I think of all of the students I’ve encountered in my three years of teaching. I can’t help but selfishly hope I cross their minds every once in awhile (for good reasons, not because they saw someone trip and it reminded them of that one time I fell on my face while teaching). I think about the hard days I got through and the lessons I learned.
One thing I really value as a teacher is the fact I get two new years. I’m more likely to make a “resolution” at the beginning of a new school year than I am on January 1. An activity I like to do with my advisory students is goal setting. I make them set goals for specific classes, the school year, their high school career, and beyond. As I’ve been reflecting and preparing for a new beginning, I’ve started to think about the goals I would like to set for this year. There will be more to come, but I have a few so far. Professionally, I want to be better at handing out the darn chapter outlines that I always forget about until a student inevitably asks for it the last week of the chapter. Personally, I want to work on immersing myself into my (now not so) new community and making friends. The introvert in me finds it really easy to not seek out socialization and often turns down social invitations. However, I think it is possible to honor the introvert in me while still building relationships in a new city. I have to remind myself that my current wonderful friendships started as strangers and took time and energy to blossom. The only action plan I have for this so far is to make the foreign language department at my school be my friends, mainly because they seem cultured and worldly and I have to believe they have delicious snacks at their gatherings.
So it is sad to see summer go. All good things must come to an end, including a daily wardrobe of athleisure wear. But I also look forward to returning to a job I love, a bit of a routine, and the new adventures this school year is sure to bring.
Side note: I mentioned enjoying some books this summer. My favorite thing about not working is reading. I would truly recommend all of them depending on what you are looking for. Here is a list if you are interested.
“It’s Okay to Laugh, Crying is Cool Too” by Nora McInerny Purmort
“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Cheryl Sandberg
“Going Om: Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat” edited by Melissa Carroll
“Sick in the Head” by Judd Apatow
“This is a Book” by Demitri Martin
“For One More Day” by Mitch Albom
“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom (seriously everyone should be required to read this once a year)