Yesterday was my last day teaching at an amazing school
Four years ago
I didn’t know what I would discover when I said yes on the phone
When the principal offered me a job teaching Spanish to elementary kids.
What am I doing? I thought to myself. I told myself I’d never teach Spanish, and here I am.
I just wanted to keep Spanish hidden up my sleeve, like I did with my music.
Ready to pull out randomly when it worked in my classroom.
To wow people, maybe.
I don’t want to be the “expert” on something that I feel so self-conscious about
I wanted to have my own group of students. I would be “their” teacher. And they would be “my” kids.
Instead, I had to get to know over 300 little ones. Of all different ages. Needs, desires, histories, social problems, learning capacities.
How could less than 60 minutes per week do anything for all these kids?
For a while it was “just a job” that did bring me occasional joy. But mostly stress.
Little by little, unbeknownst to me…I was falling in love.
I’d wake up each morning energized and excited for work.
What happened? I recently asked myself.
I remember when I used to dread teaching.
There were little things about my job I loved-
Blessings in disguise:
my crazy schedule that changed every day
being next door to the teacher’s lounge so I could run to the bathroom in one minute or fill up my water, ready with a smile on my face for a stretch of five classes in a row
the staff that were so welcoming
my nice “hot” (I was always cold so works well for me!), spacious, sunny classroom.
the variety of kid problems and joys that left me speechless and never bored
the humor and challenge of trying to get a chaotic classroom of kids to line up, while another group of rowdy, sweaty or chatty kids are waiting to enter my room
the “village” feel I soon became a part of
seeing teachers so fiercely adored by children
seeing staff so dedicated to kids
Mostly, I loved learning.
Every day, I realized (again): being a teacher is scary and humbling thing.
Children will believe anything and everything I say to them.
In a foreign language room, especially, they copy EVERY thing I do and say. I make them. (Repiten…REPITEN!!! Por favor!!!!!)
So I’d better get it right.
I had to learn a lot because I found out I didn’t know very much.
I leaned where the countries in Central America and South America were (’cause I had to teach it)
Oh and I learned where Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were located (of course I had to tell the kids where they were).
I learned what Hispanic Heritage was and why the dates are from Sept. 15 to October 15.
I learned the significance of Cinco de Mayo (a great excuse to drink).
I learned that Three Kings Day is a holiday in which the wise men come and put presents in shoes.
I learned that, for Easter, godchildren in Spain receive a gift called “Mona de Pascuas” a cake decorated with eggs, chicks and feathers.
I learned that you shouldn’t say “asi asi” when answering the question ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) because it’s a made up word that literally means “so so” but is never used by native Spanish speakers. Instead, they say “más o menos.”
I learned that my Minnesota accent comes out really bad when I get tired and lazy. I have to stop and really force myself to roll my “r”s.
I learned what really happened when the Spanish came and conquered the ancient Aztecs, Mayan and Inca.
I learned that I want to travel more after talking to my kids about countries.
I learned how to delicately talk about war with students. (After teaching a lesson on Mexican Independence Day—of course trying not to stress the war at all, but the cultural significance—a little boy came up and whispered to me with big, round passionate eyes, “Srta. Bettger, I know how Mexico won! Jesus helped them!” What do you say to that?)
I learned how NOT to make sugar skulls. My first batch turned into flat cookie-like ghosts.
I learned how to turn on and use an iPad (this year our school piloted a 1 to 1 iPad program). At first I struggled against it. I cried a lot and wanted to throw it out the window.
Over time, I learned how to use QR codes and had a heyday with it. The kids would scan these codes, which linked them to the vocab word (a video I made). It was a little freaky hearing my voice coming out of 20 iPads at the same time though.
Then, I learned how to create using an iPad. I had a lot of fun making slide shows on Haiku Deck and scrappy pages with Pic Collage.
Today I had to hand in my iPad. I had gradually weaned myself off of it this past month. So it wasn’t too bad. It was fun while it lasted and, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get one again at my new building.
I greatly enjoyed my time at this incredible school.
Change is hard for everyone, but for some reason I have always struggled with it.
For now, I will cling to all these wonderful things I’ve learned.
I will think fondly of the hundreds of people (both large and small) that have crossed my path. Sometimes I feel so unworthy of having a job of “teacher” to so many.
Just like in the past, I am now am incredibly richer person.
As ambivalent as I feel, I could not be more grateful for what I’ve been through.
the tall majesties that cover my path
they hover together
creating an intimate fantasy
their canopy beckons me
how many branches and leaves and heights
does it take to create darkness
peace and rest from the sun’s piercing rays?
I enter their loving embrace
grateful to be alive just to experience this
beauty their alluring grace
riding on my bicycle the wind ripples
through the leaves
and peace envelops me
I feel so small in a world so in control
so in charge
their presence is so commanding
yet so endearing, still, inviting
I do not feel threatened by their authority
Instead I want to rest
my wheels are turning slowly now
just to hold on
I never want to let go of a spectacular moment
I exit the canopy to see and feel the
I received the luscious drink of cool shade
Now to be comforted again with the warming rays
Nature works together to help us
To soothe us
We who are so underserving
Will we continue ignoring these
Drink them in and don’t forget
To offer back the treasures you have received.
I’m so grateful for the writing group I am in. Most of the people there are at least twenty years older than me. Most of the time I don’t know what they are talking about. That partly could be me because I zone out easily and, even with my same-age friends, I often miss the point of a story or a punch lines of a joke. But, mostly it’s because they have lived in a different era.
In our group, we write down words or phrases that are meaningful to us that we would like to write about. We put all the slips of paper in a bucket and draw them out. The person who draws out the word/phrase, reads it aloud, then chooses a time limit for writing, usually about 10 to 15 minutes. The reason why I like this group is, well, because 1) I love to write. 2) I love people. 3) I love getting to know people through writing and 4) I love love learning. I like finding out the each person’s style of writing and learning about their lives through their written word, rather than, as with other people in my life, it is through verbal words.
We usually have a little discussion after each person writes; and wow, I have learned so much from my elders. Today was a great day of learning. I started and the phrase was “split hair.” The only thing I could think of was “split ends” and how my mom used to show me what they looked like using my own hair. She would say, “When you get split ends, that’s when you’re know you need a hair cut” or something. It turns out, after I heard everyone read their pieces, “split hairs” is a phrase or idiom that means having a conflict or quibbling about petty things; to discriminate or make a fine distinction.
The next word was “vintage” and the members shared lots of memories from their pasts, eras that I have only read about in books or heard about from my parents and grandparents. When I shared my little piece about my brother Nate and how he likes vintage clothes, that spurred another whole discussion about how they themselves wore the clothes my brother liked to wear, such as leisure suits and bell bottoms. And for the women, paisley tops, mini skirts and pedal pushers. It was a very enlightening conversation.
Other times, they have written and talked about historical events, such as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster or when President Kennedy was shot. One man often writes about politics, which try as I might, I have a hard time relating to. But I try to-so that’s all that matters. Another lady has written about her family and a dress of her grandmother’s that is on display at a historical museum. Through their writing I have learned about other things I can relate to-just because we are all humans: health challenges, family joys and struggles, spirituality and the natural world.
So grateful to God for this group!
This was a piece I wrote for my writing group (unedited). We write words or phrases, then put them all in a bucket. We then draw one out and then spend 10 to 15 minutes writing on it. The phrase was “split hairs.”
Split hairs are hard to find but you know they’re there. For some reason, you just know when it’s time to get a hair cut. Something just feels off.
I feel “off” and “on” at the same time.
I am trying to really get at the “me” that is within.
But where do I find her?
Or maybe it’s useless because the more I try to find her, the more I push her away.
I want to live fully and be okay with it.
For some reason, I am not okay with my split hairs.
I am always trying to go get a hair cut
As if the change will turn me into the me I’d always dreamed I would be
But the problem is, whenever I get my split hairs cut off
They come back. It seems there are more and more of them.
So many problems. Why do I only see the problems?
The problems become me.
I want to at once be rid of the split hairs and embrace them.
Will I ever learn the art of doing this?
Is it even possible?
I am peace while I am raging
I am still while I am incessantly moving
I am free while also focused
I am rigid and smooth
I am whole and broken
I am cold and warm
I am stagnant and I am productive
I am lively and dull
I am childlike and mature
I am steady and fragile
I filled with hope for tomorrow and drowning in despair
I am light and I am swimming in my heaviness
Lord when will these extremes end?
Or can I just allow myself to flow into them
In and out breathing on my waves
I will reach the finish line
Whether I have curly or straight hair
Damp or dry
A bob or buzz cut
Perfect Barbie hair
Wavy or frizzy
Stylish or split hairs
It is all of me and I have learned to live with it.
Staring at the screen of my life
Wondering what I am doing
Am I making a difference
For those who will come
Those who are watching me
Those I leave behind?
Who are those I long for?
Who do not even exist yet?
I long to hold one in my arms
My very own blood
Running through her veins
Fear grips me to think I can lead
They will follow whatever I do
So what will I do?
Where will my footsteps take me?
I mouth the words for the little ones
I hear my mistakes echoed in their precious tones
My heart aches knowing she will be led astray
If I step off the path
His little hand copying exactly what I do
Oh Lord, I long to lead these little ones
Toward the lamplit path
Where they can know Truth
My words come out and they don’t stop
Tones that seem out of my control
Chattering and blubbering
Are my words daggers to their little souls?
Or are they salve to soothe the broken edges?
Teach me so my roots run deep into Yours
So my words are not my own
My laugh is free
And my hands are full of grace
My lips form clear truth
Kindness etched in the aftertones
My feet carry me to heights
Out of this world
So my followers are mesmerized
By what they can see above the clouds
I stand here amazed at the power in
Hands and eyes and feet and body
I don’t have to wait
For my very own
I can start to lead today
(written with prompt of “post”)
A cool breeze flowing into my window, not too unlike my thoughts. However, this breeze is calm and directed and peaceful and purposeful. My mind, on the other hand, races and my scattered musings only leave me empty and desperate for something I feel I will never receive. I am longing to be good, really effective, at something. And I know my fear and perfectionism are holding me back as always…
Tonight I am borderline passionate…I am desperate for words. My words from somewhere deep. They are inside me and refuse to get out and it’s killing me. I want to write to put my meaningless groans, my profound joy, my very soul into some semblance of human language. But I don’t even try to write, to create anymore because I am so terrified of letting myself down. I hate how I have to be this way. I want to be free to be myself, to let myself have fun even if I’m not amazing at it, to just enjoy enjoying life instead of always analyzing how well I’m performing…
I don’t even write on here very often for this exact reason. I am actually quite a happy person, however down I sound. I am just frustrated with myself.
I tried to play the violin tonight to get creative juices flowing. It helped, I guess, because I am on here writing! As I was playing songs I used to play when I was eleven years old, I wish I could say I was focusing on the moment, the beautiful sound of notes, magically created by horsehair against wire, resonating out of a wooden eight-shaped object. But I wasn’t. I started to think of all the “skills” I supposedly have, but feel in my heart, what’s the use? There’s always someone who can do it better. I thought of making cards and writing and music and Spanish and teaching and working with people with special needs…I wish there was something I was just amazing at. But I just scratch the surface on millions of little things.
Then I think of things I want to pursue because I get invigorated when thinking about them, like birdwatching and traveling and theater and live music and cooking and playing ultimate frisbee. I hate this fear that is suffocating me. The fear that blockades my joy, yelling at me, saying, “What would people think?” or “You’re almost 28 years old and you’re going around playing frisbee. That’s seems immature” or “You have too much anxiety. Might as well play it safe.”
Part of this has to do with the fact that I’m single and I don’t know what my role is. I want to be there for my friends and siblings and all their little babies and crazy lives. At the same time, I want to do my own thing. I have many years ahead of me to be a wife, a mom, and a crazy busybody homemaker. Right now I want to suck the marrow out of life…for the first time in my life, I am really excited about what life (on earth) has to offer. I’ve always loved the idea of heaven and escape but God is finally revealing to me what beauty he has given me on earth.
How do I escape this fear that keeps digging its claws into me, wrapping me up tighter and tighter til I’m incapacitated. Oh too late. I guess I’m not going to pursue this dream of mine because the deadline passed or I’m too old or I’m too busy or I’m too poor. I’m sick of all my stupid excuses. I just want to grow some balls already and get out there, experience life with no regrets. I know this is all a little against my conservative, analytical nature. So I should give myself a little grace and understanding. I will focus on the little gains I am making to reach my dreams. Like, I actually wrote on my blog today. And I am not going to analyze it, and rant and rave in my head about it. I’ll try not to at least.