Monday, September 14, 2020

Remembering

     It's been a year. How does the time pass so quickly? We blink and time swishes by, leaving us in a wake of would'ves and should'ves. I have them. I should've gone to see him more. I wish I would've called him more. Who knew he'd leave us so early? Not me. Certainly not me.

     Max taught at the alternative school where I currently teach, the only male teacher. Max had a great sense of humor that he claimed helped him deal with "all the women in his life." He was opinionated an/d passionate about education, especially alternative education. I was usually one of the first ones at school, followed close behind by Max. I started trailing him down to  his room and asking questions. Mostly about education and kids.  And I learned. A lot.

     Pretty soon those morning sessions turned into phone calls during the summer or after school was done for the day. Although I knew I was somewhat of a pest, Max never got impatient with me. He influenced my life like few others have.

    I called him one day. He had had some not so positive news in April but during the summer he underwent a  new treatment that doctors were hopeful would shrink the lesions on his brain. I called at the end of August to see how things were going for him. Max said in his matter-of-fact voice that the doctors told him he had about six weeks left. The next weekend was Labor Day. I told him I was coming to see him. He tried to argue with me but saw the futility in that. I would be there on Saturday.

    I made the twenty-hour round trip and saw him for an hour. That was the best decision I ever made  Less than two weeks later, he was gone.

      So why am I telling all this? Life is short. People we care about need to hear that from us. Especially in the classroom. Max taught me that. He was all about relationships and telling kids he was proud of them. And letting them know he cared. That's what he taught me. 

     He taught me that it's okay for students to use calculators. And that sometimes students just need to be in school because it's a safe place. And being flexible is not a sign of weakness or a lack of classroom management. And that students are more important than the content or curriculum.  And...well, he taught me more than I have the space to list.

      Max left his hand print on my heart. He influenced me professionally in ways for which I'll always be  grateful.  A year later and I still find myself picking up the phone to call Max,  then I remember he's not there.  But his influence is. 

     Be a Max to a younger colleague. Invest in them professionally. Be flexible in the classroom. Remember that some days students may not be in the mindset to work because of family problems. Don't be married to the lesson plans.

     I hope you have a Max in your life. I'm grateful I had one in mine.

    It has made all the difference.

      

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Staying Positive in the Pandemic

     A lot has transpired since my last post. A lot of life has passed by--some of it filled with regrets and some not. I try not to live in the regret zone. That place can rob your joy, steal the  mission/vision of your life , and lull you into a sedentary position. So no regrets for my sabbatical. But what launched me out of my silence? Honestly? It was the constant negativity surrounding students and schools as they deal with Covid-19. Being a teenager is hard enough without having  to deal the pandemic 

    Don't get me wrong. I'm as aware as the next person about social distancing, fevers, and Covid-19. As a teacher,I know my classroom days may be numbered. "May be"  are the operative two words. I have little control over what happens to my classroom. I say "yes" to every new directive given. But what happens in my classroom? Well, I feel like I  can control that to an extent.

     With all the negativity swirling around us, I want to make my classroom a sanctuary. A place students can feel safe. A place of positivity, where optimism is the rule, not the exception.  A place  where students feel comfortable enough and connected enough to discuss issues with me. A place where the virus is acknowledged but not empowered.

        The first time I met with my students, I told them something I firmly believe: face-to-face learning, distance learning, learning online--it doesn't matter what they choose. Their happiness with their choice, and their life, can rise no higher than their attitude.Their success during this weird educational time is almost solely in their hands. Be positive. It takes less energy than negativity.

      In the teacher's lounge, in the hallway, after school--these are all times I look for the bright side and try to speak words of positivity. The world has enough darkness. Listening to the endless sniping in the news or on the radio can just add to your angst. Protect yourself. Limit your intake of negative news, and begin to look on the bright side.

     Be the person who passes on negative conversations but rather initiates positive words and actions. Be a role model for those around you.

     Make this school year the best you've had in a long time. Avoid those things that bring you down, Your students take their cue from you, so focus on the positive.Who knows? It could make all the difference.