I love my job. There are hard parts of my job, annoying parts, parts that make you want to drive straight to the liquor store, and parts that make you want to cry. Most mostly, it is awesome. Being a teacher is not just a job, it is a part of what makes me ME!
First graders are a special breed. I love their crooked, wiggly teeth. I love the way they can’t say their ‘aw’s (you know, the letter after Q?). I secretly love when they accidentally call me “Mom”. Their honesty is refreshing and simple. They can make me feel so beautiful (“You are the prettiest teacher in the whole world!”) and so heinous (“What is that big, red dot on your chin, Mrs. C.?). Farts make them laugh (me too- ha!). They draw rainbows and butterflies. To them, school is still cool! And, they give the BEST hugs.
There is no other year like first grade. Every single day, I teach kids how to read…the most powerful skill in the whole world. They grow so much in this one single year, it is hard to believe that there isn’t some sort of magic learning dust mixed into the mashed potatoes in the cafeteria. But it’s not magic- just hard work. Very hard work. I have been faced with so many hard decisions lately, and one of the hardest was making the choice to stay home for the remainder of this school year. A lot of thought and tears went into making this decision. I agonized over it. My friends worried about me being alone during the day for so long. I felt guilt over not working, while John gets up and goes to school each day. I didn’t want to let the kids or their parents down. But, ultimately, I knew that if I went back, one of two things would happen. Either I would not be 100% all there for the kids and their school experience would stink, or (more likely) I would try so hard to be 100% for them that I would not have one ounce of anything left for myself.
Right now, my job is grief. My therapist calls it “grief work” because it’s so hard. It is a full time job taking care of my emotions and figuring out how to get by. Sometimes it takes all of my energy just to get out of bed and showered for the day. I have been working on ridding myself of the guilt I feel for staying home, and learning how to enjoy it…to take care of my soul, to learn new things, and to heal. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I think about going back…but when I really examine that feeling, it is simply to have an escape. A distraction. That’s not the right reason to go back. And the truth is, grief would sneak up on me from somewhere, ugly and worse than before if I don’t take the time now to handle it. So that’s what I’m doing. I am taking a graduate class, learning photography, writing this blog, and enjoying the small things in life. Oh, and grief work.
Today, I went to visit my class for the first time since losing Callie. They were planting flowers outside of the school, so I volunteered to come help and surprise them. Driving up to the school, I actually had butterflies…I was nervous to see 7-year-olds. I thought of the last time I’d seen my class the day before Callie came into this world. It seemed so surreal that in the matter of a few hours, my life could turn upside down and crazy. I was scared that one of the kids would ask me something about Callie that would make me cry. The worries flooded my brain and my eyes filled with tears. Stepping into the school, I was welcomed by so many hugs and smiles, but, it was so hard to see everyone when I felt so different. I know my smile didn’t reach my eyes, but I tried.
As the kids came walking down the hall and saw me for the first time, I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from crying. I just waved. I think half the kids were shocked to actually see me and the other half had huge, silly grins on their faces. As we pulled small groups to go outside to plant, the kids giggled and gave me hugs…it felt so good. Hilariously, one boy ran right past me and complained, “Oh man! I wanted to go to the nurse! My head is hurting!” I told him I was going to give him a Noogie to make it feel better. He laughed and then proceeded to tell me all about his tooth that had just fallen out and how the tooth fairy gave him money. Dirt was flying everywhere. I had to laugh…even though my world has stopped, theirs has kept spinning…tooth fairy and all. Thank God for that.
If only we could all be a little bit more like our 7-year-old selves…this world would be a pretty awesome place, wouldn’t it? It’s all rainbows and butterflies, bandaids make everything better, and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t feel guilty for not working. I’d probably be out finding cool shapes in the clouds, picking dandelions because they are kind of beautiful, and (let’s be honest- I was a hopeless nerd and still am) I would be reading a good book under a maple tree. I miss those kiddos tremendously, but I have to do what is best for me. Today, those little ones were my teacher. Life is awesome, the tooth fairy is a miracle, and the world is a place of wonder. Tomorrow, I am going to take a page from their book and I will put my hands in the dirt and giggle- for that is truly living.