Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I did it!

I did it!
I finished my 6th year of teaching!
Great job everybody.
This was a long year of transition, questioning, loneliness and hope.
I moved schools and districts this last year and all of the above words pummeled me.

I tackled some of the issues around transition on this post, but let it be said again;
transition of any kind--expected or not--is not easy. Change requires the conscious choice to be present where you are and not let worries about what was and
what could be cloud where you are now.
 Some days this is way easier said than done, but as the year went on it got easier to see, really see, what was in front of me and embrace it.

One of the drastic changes for me was the 35-40 minute commute each way. One thing that I found helpful was listening to NPR. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole Government shutdown hoopla, 
and I cried as I heard about the girls being taken in Nigeria--(#bringbackourgirls !). 
There were many, many stories that were fun, interesting and, unsuspectingly, they provided peace for me as I navigated this transition.
These are a few of the stories that really changed me and entertained me: 
Avielle Foundation
Teaching Grit
The Journey of a T-Shirt
Found Recipes--The legendary cake
Thanks, NPR, for helping me with transition and helping me commute like a champ!

This profession causes me to question a lot of things. Like, A LOT of things. The political layers alone give me hives. I have been extremely lucky, however, to have a champion in my corner. My "You're the best teacher in the world!" cheer has consistently come from my dad.  He sends me articles from the newspaper and highlights and jots down notes to me--encouraging me on how to navigate all the BS happening right now--in my district, and in the  whole of education. I am so incredibly lucky to have him.
The first part of the above note says,
 "Saw this in Sunday's paper and thought of my favorite teacher." 
This note is just a taste of all the things he has sent me. One of the notes he wrote on the "Jeffco Connections" paper says, "What idiots! Don't they know they have Kari as a teacher?!"  It melts my heart and reminds me that I have someone fighting for me and with me. 
It helps. A lot. 

This one was the hardest lessons for me this year. Being new to a district, school and curriculum wasn't easy. Teaching is often an "I'm an island" type of profession anyway. It seems like we are all fending for ourselves and making sure we don't implode. Not feeling known and not knowing where to put my energy--personally and professionally--took its toll and I didn't want to be on the island by myself anymore!

Around November I had to consciously make the decision to not let loneliness get the best of me. Part of that choice was to connect with who was in front of me 8 hours a day--the kids. I did everything I could to connect with them and give them my best. I shared more of my life with them and I was able to learn more about who they were. Knowing the kids beyond their reading and writing skills helped give me perspective about my purpose here. 

At the end of the year I wrote all the kids little notes of thanks for being my "lifesavers". I, of course, gave them lifesavers candy and that's all they really wanted--but I got to express my gratefulness to each of them; even the ones who truly hated language arts. Bless their souls...
I am slowly finding my place here and I have hope that loneliness won't
 always be a part of my teaching story. 

Just when I thought I couldn't do this job anymore--and just when I contemplated switching careers {seriously...} it was graduation day. 
I taught 7th graders my first year of teaching. During that year, I distinctly remember telling them that I couldn't wait to celebrate with THE class of 2014 at their graduation. May 20, 2014 finally came and I got to attend 2 graduations. The first one was Central High School in APS and the second one was my former school, AWCPA in APS.
 I am still connected to a good handful of kids from both schools and I was so excited to see this day finally come for them. Because the class of 2014 was my first graduating class, I hadn't been to a graduation in my career yet. I was ready to be emotional at the "Pomp and Circumstance" {what is it about that song!?!?!}
but what I wasn't ready for was the deep, soul sort of emotion I felt sitting in the audience. 
As a middle school teacher we don't have a lot of closure with our kids. We send them off to high school and hope that those teachers see the awesome we see--and then those teachers get to be a part of their departure from the school system nest. 

As I sat in the audience I had a very emotional response to being one of the people that helped them get to this space of their life. I was sitting next to family, friends and teachers who knew these kids too and were so, so proud of them. I wept through the whole thing because I saw the bigger picture.
 I saw the end-game.
 I saw that I was a part of their journey--
and this changed me.

The kids I taught my first year of teaching holds a very special place in my heart and I can't even begin to express how seeing them graduate gave me hope for my place in this profession. I got to take selfies with a few of "my" kids after the ceremony. "My" Denisee graduated with honors, {of course!} and the valedictorian of Central was "my" Alfredo! 
 It meant so, so, so much to have this as a part of my story this year. I hope that I will cherish this day in my many teaching years ahead. I know that I will make graduation a part of my yearly routine. I need to tangibly celebrate these amazing souls because it makes it all worth it. 

So, I did it. I finished my 6th year of teaching.
 It feels like a "barely finished", but I finished. 
I'm grateful I have a summer to replenish some of my depleted resources and gear up for another year of this crazy, unpredictable profession. 
Thank you for all of your support in letting me process here and for cheering me on. 
It takes a village, after all. 


  1. Your dad is right, you definitely are the best teacher! Hugs!

  2. Girl - this is sooooo YOU! And yes, you see and hold the whole journey….for your kids….and for you…and the most remarkable thing is at the very end, yes the very end…looking back over the whole wide and and vast traverse you made….you find that you actually WeRe "being held" through the whole thing….even though it didn't feel like it at times, and even though the path went through dark places, and even though there were times where for awhile you thought you'd lost your way….in the end, you had a "teacher" all along who had held YoUr journey, and watched YoUr path, and cheered for YOU every step of the way…and when you got there, when you crossed over the stage and moved the tassel from one side to to the other with your friends and loved ones shouting "Kari, Kari, Kari"…then you knew you were not alone and that there were loved ones all around...and that the greatest teacher had been inside you all along guiding you with your inner light and oodles and oodles of wisdom and love. Thanks for sharing your heart…always.

  3. Well, I'm not sure how to compete with Shana's comment:) But I am so very proud of you! For showing up, for investing, for making that commute every day, for advocating for yourself and your kids, and for being a damn good teacher! You're one of the very best my friend, not despite your struggles but because of your struggles. Kids can see how real you are and I know it changes them. LOVE YOU!