Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Ugly Cry

I cried the ugly cry last night.

You know, the one where you've just a few too many cocktails and suddenly everything is JUST. SO. SAD. Your shoulders start heaving and you're squeaking trying to hold in the sobs until the floodgates open and mascara starts streaming down your face while your husband says bewilderedly "I thought we had a good time? And everything was fine?" 

Yeah.  It was THAT kind of crying. 

What for, you ask?

A myriad of things, really...the end of the school year is always emotional for me because I get attached to my 8th graders and its hard to watch them move onto high school. This year was made infinitely more difficult because I'm hanging up my coaching hat to wear the full-time teacher cap. As I knew it would be, this transition is so incredibly bittersweet. I love watching girls fall in love with sports. I love watching them set goals, strive for greatness and overcome obstacles. Playing sports created so many defining characteristics through tough practices, conflicts with teammates and coaches, and the glory of a well-deserved win. When I coached my girls, I tried to keep in mind that I would be forever etched in their mind as their "middle school volleyball coach" and I had control over whether or not that was a good or bad memory. 

I didn't become a teacher because I love math SO much (although, I really do). I became a teacher because I wanted to leave something on this earth that was bigger than me. I wanted to make an impact in children's lives. There is so much ugliness in the world that our children see and experience. I can't erase the rejection by a parent, or the years of abuse by a loved one....but I can offer a safe place to land for forty-five minutes during the day. I can have an open door policy that allows for communication, a listening ear and advice....when asked. I can show my students the unconditional love that they might be lacking elsewhere.  Yes. Love. I have to love these kids in order to teach them. I have to be invested in who they are, where they come from and where they are headed.

So I cried because I'm scared at this next step. I'm worried that my sphere of influence in the lives ofstudents will shrink due to the nature of being a math teacher. I dread the day my athletes come to me complaining about their new volleyball coach. Or even worse...they tell me how awesome she is and how much they love playing for her. I'm terrified that all these people are excited about my new position and believe that I'm going to do great....and what if I'm not. What if I've been faking my way through this whole teaching gig and I'm really not that great at disseminating information, organizing curriculum and preparing kids for a MAJOR state test? 

And then I cried because of an overwhelming sense of loss. 

My first three years in the classroom were spent at a school where the teaching environment and th comrade rue amongst the teachers was pure magic. There were fun pranks on fellow teachers, happy hours every week and tons of wedding and baby showers celebrating each others major life events. There was a tight-knit group of us that weren't just co-workers, but great friends as well....and I know this contributed to the success of our students and the overall atmosphere in the school. During this time, the girls athletics program won at least six district championships not JUST because we had a run of fabulous athletes, but I think the girls had a great understanding of teamwork because the four of us coaches MODELED teamwork and friendship for them on a daily basis. 

One of these great teacher friends I made during this time was my mentor teacher who took me under her wing while I was student teaching in 8th grade math. She was young, cool and laid back. She also was a former party girl and understood why I was always dragging on Monday mornings. Through my year of student teaching, she became more than just my mentor teacher....but a great friend as well. I would sit with her and her bestie at lunch everyday and I learned so much about teaching , being a wife and motherhood. They became the older sisters that I never had. 

And she's moving. To Colorado. Sigh. 

I'm upset and sad not just because I'm going to miss seeing her at in-services or at swim dates during the summer....but also because its the end of an era. Another important face of those three wonderful years at MMS that is gone. 

At this end-of-school party the other night, most of that old gang was there to celebrate the end of another year, but also to say good-bye to a dear friend. It was lovely...all of us being back together, having drinks, laughing at our crazy antics and marveling at the quickness that time seems to pass. I cried because I miss that camaraderie. Yes, I have a bestie at my new school...but it's not the same. I miss going to work excited to see all my friends.  I miss the kids knowing that if I wasn't in my room in the mornings to check next door with the other volleyball coach - because we were a matched set, where you found one of us the other wasn't far away. I miss conspiring for our yearly prank on the basketball coach - we've tipped over desks, decorated his room in Michigan State (for the devout Michigan fan) and printed off huge pictures of ourselves and taped them to the walls. 

I miss the easiness of it all....we came to work, did our best to teach the kids we had while trying not to take it all too seriously. We knew the lessons we were preparing were tried and true - and we had the test scores to prove it. Because of the educational atmosphere alive and well today in my district, the state and the nation....teaching is stressful. Am I incorporating enough technology?  Are the parents going to contest this very low but very well-DESERVED grade by their child?  Am I going to be docked points on my appraisal for a lack of technology in this ONE lesson they are observing?  Am I strategically designing my lessons? I guess I've been involved in education for long enough to see the changing of tides....and also long enough to know that I've invested far too much time and energy into it to bail out now and find something else to do.

So, I cried the ugly cry while Craig patiently patted my hand and reminded me how much I hate change, but despite my fear of the always somehow works itself out.  And he's right.  I'll sit here next year and laugh at my fears of teaching math.  Of course there will be moments when I sit at my desk and wonder WHY DID I DO THIS?!  But when it's all said and moves on, math will be taught, friendships will remain despite the distance but I also have to remember that not everything in our lives is meant for permanence....that's why God gives us the power of memories.  

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