Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Big Mouth

I have a big mouth. I know it...most people around me know it. It has been known to get me into trouble once in awhile. When I was in kindergarten my teacher informed my parents, "You know you have no secrets, right?" Because, alas, I had a big mouth even then. Thanks to a lot of life lessons, I have learned how to harness that big mouth and use it diplomatically...most of the time. I get my point across, but usually in a way that isn't hurtful or abrasive. My husband tells me I have mastered the art of telling someone to "buzz off" (insert expletive here), only to leave them wondering, "Did she just tell me that?" Usually, I consider this an asset, and most people tend to agree. However, I have found that my ability to harness my big mouth and be diplomatic is not as in tune as it used to be. I tend to have much less patience and am much quicker to just say whatever is in my mind, regardless of who is listening or what environment I'm in. My filter is much less refined than it used to be.

Since our short time with Faith, and our experience around that part of our life, I find that my emotions rest so incredibly close to the surface. All the time...even now, a year and a half later, emotions are not as easily squelched as they were before. Last year when I first returned to work, I often chose one of two paths - 1) confront something head on, say what I think (abrasively at times), emotions high, "damn the consequences" or 2) try to avoid high-stress situations where I knew I couldn't handle the emotional stress and stay in the background. I have found myself feeling stronger this year and have more readily accepted situations where the stress is high, believing I had the emotional strength to withstand it without falling apart at the seams or taking anyone out in my wake.

God has recently reminded me that this may not be the case. God has again sent me a little message...a sign...that I may need to readjust my lens. I fear that I may have unintentionally hurt someone with my words recently. While much of the words I said were from the heart and very much something I meant, I should have said them differently and addressed the situation without letting my emotions get the better of me. Because though I meant what I said, I did not mean the how it was said.

Grief is organic. It is a living, breathing thing, ever-changing in its manifestation. Only someone that has never grieved a loved one will doubt this. But I can tell you that I have again been reminded that while the intensity of grief is far less than a year ago, it is never gone. And occasionally, when I take on too much I am reminded with a wallop that I am not the person I used to be. I have lost a little bit of that piece of me that could keep everything emotionally organized and speak from a place of diplomacy whenever necessary. Because my emotions aren't so organized. And though they are much, much more together than in the immediate aftermath of losing Faith, I think I'm beginning to accept that I will never again be quite as "together" as I once was. I do okay 95% of the time and have found a way to "check out" when necessary. I've remembered how to keep my mouth shut when necessary (really, I have) and take a breath before I open my mouth...most of the time.

But, once in awhile, God must remind me that I am not the person I was. It is an often humbling message and one that is not lost on me. None of this is to say that I am incapable of being the strong, vocal advocate I have been known for being. I think it just means that I need to listen to the message. I need to listen to my heart and understand that I do have my limits, and even more now than ever, I must respect them so that my big mouth remains my asset and not my detriment.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

I am a Teacher

I will apologize up front for some of this post (necessarily) being a bit cryptic...I am involved in something at work right now that requires me to keep details confidential. And I will honor that. However, I do want to write something that will speak to all the people out there who know me, know what I am currently doing, or anyone who knows a teacher.

Being a teacher, for most teachers anyway, is truly more than a job. It sounds cliched, but in a way, I guess it is more of a calling. All good teachers I know have gone through moments of, "I don't know if I want to teach forever." And most of them decide that, yes, teaching will be forever. We all struggle with difficult students, difficult parents, difficult colleagues, and too-often overwhelming demands. Then we watch the news and see that teachers are being attacked all over this country. I don't know when being a teacher went from something that was highly respected to something that is barely noticed (unless you're doing something wrong.) It seems though, that this is what's happening in this country right now. Despite all this, many people would ask, "Why do you continue to teach?" Well, because...

I am a teacher. That's all I can really say. I didn't go into teaching because I wanted to be rich. I didn't go into teaching because I believed it was easy. I didn't go into teaching because I "get to work for six hours a day and have my summers off." I became a teacher because I had (and continue to have) a desire to help children succeed. That moment when a child looks up at you and the "lightbulb" has gone off is like no other...and to know that I made that difference for that child at that moment is the best kind of high. It is its own reward. I love teaching...I love the kids I teach (yes, even the difficult ones). Because of some recent work, I was out of my classroom for several days. Upon my return, several of my students saw me and yelled out, "Mrs. Largent! You're here!" Their excitement at seeing me, instead of a sub, was the highlight of my week. So, to see teachers being torn down, disrespected, degraded, and stripped of their rights (can anyone say Wisconsin?) is, to say the least, heartbreaking.

There are so many myths about teaching...Myth #1: That I only work six or seven hours a day. Untrue...most teachers I know work far beyond their required hours...I probably average about 50 hours a week, both in school and on my own time. I do get some of my summer we take out those weeks and average about 40 weeks of work in a year times those 50 hours...hmmm, about 2000 hours a year. Which, is what the average full-time employee works during their calendar year. If an average employee works 40 hours a week and has two weeks of vacation, they work 50 weeks a that would be 2000 hours, right? That's what I thought. And yes, I know there are exceptions to everything...I'm just speaking in generalities and averages here.

I get my summers off...yep. Can't argue that. It's a perk of my job. The perk of a corporate job? You can take a vacation anytime of the year. I can't. I have to take my vacations in June or July. There are ups and downs to every job.

Myth #2: Tenured teachers can't be fired...untrue. This is probably the biggest myth there is. Tenure doesn't guarantee a simply guarantees due process. If a tenured teacher is fired, they have a right to know why and to challenge that termination. Non-tenured teachers can be fired for no reason at all, and often aren't given one and have no recourse.

I could go on and on about the myths that some believe define teachers. It is an unfortunate turn of events in this country that teachers are merely seen by some as "glorified babysitters." I have had the opportunity to be in a unique position lately, defending teachers, their professionalism and integrity...and then to see so many of them standing by in support. To see and hear that support has meant so much; to come into their fray amidst cheers and applause is more uplifting that I can possibly say. It brought some to be reminded that we are among the honored and the special group of people that call themselves teachers. It is a privilege to teach a child, to watch them learn, to help build them into people of substance. And to know that my dear friends and colleagues will be waiting to stand behind a small group of us that are working for them, is the best gift I've had in some time. It's also one of the many reasons that I find myself, once again, proud to say...

I am a teacher.