Thursday, December 4, 2014

Older, Wiser, and Looking Ahead.

Yesterday was my youngest child's birthday - she turned 21.  So now I am officially one of those old people with adult children.  

I am amused  to report that she was carded, only to order WATER as her beverage for the evening.  I am not foolish enough to believe this will be the beverage of choice once winter break begins next week.  But for now, it was nice to spend an evening with Kristin and her roommate, Chelsea, celebrating the wonderful, funny, and talented people they have become.  

Oh, and eating meatballs the size of (fill in your guess here!).

Back to the Future - 1999

If you had told me 21 years ago that I would be teaching high school, I would have either made a snide comment or laughed in your face.  I had wanted to be an elementary school teacher since I was a child --- I was principal of my own school at age 11.  (If you can count someone who charges 50 cents a week for tuition to attend a summer camp for neighborhood preschoolers a principal, but you get the idea...)  My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education with a concentration in history, so it makes perfect sense that I am teaching English and advising Gifted kids in a high school today.

My first year of teaching was Kristin's kindergarten year.  We both went to school half time, and spent the other half of the day with each other.  I had been blessed to have been able to stay at home with her brothers while they were preschoolers, and the timing of this was perfect.

During that first year, I taught in seven different places in four elementary schools.  For a short stint of two months, I taught on the stage of the cafegymatorium DURING LUNCH with the curtains open.  My entire class was the stage show for lunch for a bunch of first through fifth graders.  Other educational spaces included the student TV studio, a music closet, the back of the library (while library instruction was happening at the other end of the room, so SHHHHH!), a hallway outside of the office, and the custodian's office.  Flexibility was the name of the game.

The one thing that Special Education has going for it, is that there are all sorts of regulations in place on the state and federal levels governing environment -- square footage, etc. for that population.  The same can not be said for gifted.  My total number of teaching spaces is somewhere near 30, the weirdest being a "glass office" between two sets of doors of an emergency exit and a maintenance shed on a floodplain. 

To be honest, I miss that shed.  It was me, the gifted kids, a kiln, a bathroom, and, in the spring, a portapotty outside the window.  (Since we overlooked the girls' softball field.)  Aside from needing to put plastic milkcrates anchored with rocks in the parking lot when it rained to serve as lilypad stepping stones for my students to keep from walking through six inches of water, that space was heaven.

A lot has happened in the last sixteen years, but the flexibility required in my life as a parent, and as a teacher, continues to be what makes life interesting. 

My classroom now is gorgeous.  And boring.  Aside from the stack of blankets in the closet (to counteract the random cold snaps from the ever so efficient heating system) and the (sadly now departed) radio controlled helium filled shark that I tried to use to keep the motion sensors from shutting off the lights every 90 seconds, it pretty much looks like every other classroom.

But you and I know that the ORDINARY stops right there.  And as long as that's the case, I can feel younger than I am, invent and dream with the best and the brightest, and share it all with my biological kids -- no matter where they go.