Saturday, March 25, 2017

51 Degrees but It Feels like 48

Winter has returned, although not in an entirely convincing way. Thunderstorms Tuesday morning gave way to bright, warm sunshine in the afternoon. The next day I awoke to the gurgling of the drain pipe as a steady rain passed through once again. I could only wait and see what the rest of the day would bring. Checking the weather forecast, I saw that it was currently 51 degrees outside, but "feels like 48." That always cracks me up: "feels like." I wonder how that is determined. Who gets to decide what it feels like? And how could anyone feel the difference of 3 degrees?

I suppose, though, in life we do feel those subtle shifts in temperature. Sometimes, even the smallest change in our perception can make a big difference.

After months of feeling discouraged and restless and considering that maybe I truly needed to find another career, preferably one that didn't follow me home each night, I had an almost imperceptible shift of my own yesterday afternoon. I was standing in front of my class giving a spelling test of all things when it happened. Suddenly, I wasn't so discouraged and restless. Suddenly, I remembered a little of the joy that teaching has always brought me.

This change in temperature stayed with me as I sat after school and corrected the spelling tests. One student, who has a talent for constantly talking and playing around with his classmates (in short, driving me crazy), had written on the bottom of his paper that I could find the rest of his words on the back. I laughed not only at the sheer kid mentality of that comment but the elaborate way in which he had expressed it. A few more tests after that, I found the one from one of my most challenging students and marveled at how neatly he had written his words. There are times he turns in work that mirrors his mood, meaning it is completely unreadable. But here was the work of someone who cared, someone who was proud, someone who wanted to do his best.  These kids, who might not always know how to behave properly, still had so much potential and humor and caring inside them. Had I forgotten that? Had I gotten so caught up in what needed to be taught and what everyone needed to be able to do in order to be considered successful, in order for me to be considered successful, that I had forgotten that at the end of the day, it is only about the kids and creating a positive experience for them? And in my forgetting, had I lost the sense of joy I had had at the beginning of my career?

I don't know for sure what caused me to shift my perspective that day. It may have been having a room full of third graders actually all following directions at the same time or it may have been a casual remark from a friend, who moved from our K-5 school to middle school a few years ago and who is also my son's high school track coach. I mentioned to him that I didn't see how he could do both jobs; I was barely keeping up with one. He responded that he had been overwhelmed when teaching at our school and if he hadn't made the change to middle school, he wouldn't have been able to fulfill his dream of being a high school distance coach.

Overwhelmed. That word struck a nerve. That is exactly how I've been feeling. Overwhelmed. And when I feel that way, everything stops working.

How does one stop feeling overwhelmed? Well, I'm not entirely sure. But I think for me it may begin with giving myself permission to not be perfect, and to accept the fact that I never really could be.

Who decides what the temperature feels like? Ultimately, it is up to us to make that decision for ourselves.  So, today I don't care what says it feels like; I am aiming to make it feel like a sunny and warm 75.

What will the day feel like to you?

1 comment:

  1. Some classes, some schools are more overwhelming than others. I am in a great school now and am glad I had those more difficult years. They made me a better teacher, though they were hard.


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