This summer, I tried to downshift.  I really tried.

I watched a fair bit of Netflix, binging on Friends (Monica and Chandler just got married and I vaguely remember that there are children coming…) for some time.  I stared at my sage green walls and wished for Chip and Joanna to come and fix my house–they could do whatever they wanted and add shiplap to any wall they pleased.  I consulted a design specialist to choose paint colors so I do it right and not end up with a hodgepodge of colors I like that don’t flow.  I purged kitchen gadgets and doohickeys still in boxes from when I moved in.  I lamented the lack of storage in my kitchen and got rid of bags of reusable grocery bags that had found their way into every nook and cranny of my kitchen and closets.  I rearranged the living room (again).  I napped in sunbeams that wandered across my couch.  I spent three days in the mountains with a friend, hiked, consumed farm to table food, drank local beer, and fished a Tenkara fly rod (and “caught” a baby trout, flinging it into the grass behind me on a backcast accidentally…and returned it safely to the river.)

I slept in till 6am and sat down to eat a breakfast that required chewing.

And now I am somewhat back to work, drinking smoothies for breakfast in my office, preparing for teacher training which begins next week.  I get to work with the new teachers, both those new to our building and new to our profession altogether.

I keep trying to remember what I wanted to know as I started my first year of teaching as I develop and refine our onboarding process each year.

The first day I was allowed into my classroom, I was escorted into a room which had been a storage room for science stuff and spied a large cabinet in the middle of the room…and nothing else.

I remember wondering how on earth I’d afford to buy desks and books and all the things one traditionally have in a classroom.

I was told that desks and such would come in a little bit, and if I found I needed anything else, just ask and it’d show up eventually.

I sat in the middle of the room and just looked around at the sheer nakedness of it.  There was dust and the bunnies it creates, and I tried to imagine where I’d have a library, a reading table, my own desk…

I tried to make a to-do list on the whiteboard using the one Expo marker I found.  It didn’t work.  I gave up and went to the teacher store and bought decorations, hoping that when I returned, I’d have furniture and would have figure out what I needed to do to make that naked room a home in which kids could learn.

There’s so much you don’t know that first year, and part of you just wants to create an environment in which kids can grow and learn.  You don’t know the kids and the culture of the school is still a mystery.  You’re trusting of the people you meet and hope they’re all steering you in the right direction with advice and suggestions.  You don’t know where your teaching materials are, and you don’t know what the hell you’ll teach either because the level in which you did your student teaching is quite often far removed from that which you are hired on to teach your first year.  You don’t know the code to make copies or the one to shut off the alarm.  And you can’t remember the name of the secretary or the custodian, but you remember being told that those are the two people you need to be nicest to because they’ll do things for people they like when they ask politely or need a favor.

You don’t know when your health insurance kicks in or when you can see the dentist.  You aren’t sure when you get paid, but know that every single cent is spoken for…for several months.  You don’t know how early you can come in or how late you can or might be expected to stay.  You are wondering about whether or not the outfits you bought at Target and Kohl’s will meet the dress code, or if you’ll need to go find a full on skirt suit or five to have something that’s appropriate for work.  You know that you have three dollars in change in the ashtray of your car, and are seriously considering a trip to Del Taco on the way home.

As you get into your classroom, you are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that’s there–furniture in piles in the middle of the room, books, teaching materials arranged in such a way you can’t make sense of any of it, and stuff left by the previous teacher that you aren’t positive you can throw out.  You struggle to see how the pile of furniture was arranged in a way that was functional for kids.  Panic sets in as you realize that you also have to plan lessons to teach and prep materials while you’re creating this learning space.

And with the overwhelm and panic comes one of two things (or sometimes both in quick succession): teary meltdowns in the middle of the floor or pure stubbornness to make this work.

I was often the person who did both, sometimes simultaneously.

In the pseudo-admin role I have now, my overwhelm comes from the whiteboards that magically keep expanding to hold another idea or twenty as I think about things I need to do, get, or figure out.  It comes from the emails requiring an action I snoozed until today that all pop up at 8am and I think to myself, “Why on earth did you snooze everything for the same day?  That was really stupid.”  It comes from the random sticky note attached to something unrelated reminding me that I was supposed to have done something which I may or may not still be slightly ahead of.

My brain went on overload today about 12:30 as I was talking with new teachers about how to put their classrooms together, trying to tell them only what they needed to know to survive today and maybe tomorrow, not overloading them with everything in my head that I know they need to know.  It’s hard to keep your mouth shut.

I gave up at 2 and came home.  I have a yoga room to finish painting and putting back together before I get teachers on Monday.  During all that downshifting I made a decision on paint and decided to create a space that was just mine, in which I could do yoga, work out, or just sit in meditation. Eventually, I’ll put a chair in there, maybe paint the dresser, but it’ll be a pleasant, calm space that’s a bit of a getaway.

A space in which I can downshift again.


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